Belly Dancing in Pregnancy and Labor

We are all settling in as a family and I have started working on some new posts, but in the meantime I thought I would share this post which I had prepared before Tiny One was born.

In my post on pain coping techniques for labor, I mentioned belly dancing as one of the tools I plan on using during labor.  I have been practicing belly dance on and off for years on my own, and have been dancing throughout my pregnancy.

There are many benefits to belly dance in both pregnancy and in labor.  In pregnancy, belly dance is a great low-impact workout in which you can really work up a sweat and work your abs – or you can take it slow and it can be relaxing and feel really good on a sore low back and hips.  Doing slow hip circles and spirals and figure eights feel like a gentle massage for both mother and baby.  Practicing belly dance also makes me feel beautiful, which is important during pregnancy.  (Note: The smooth flowing movements are best – avoid sharp movements.  Shimmies stimulate baby, so should be avoided during pregnancy, but may be helpful during labor. See Natural Pregnancy Midwife’s Article on Belly Dancing for Pregnancy.)

During labor, belly dance helps the pelvis and hip joints widen and relax.  And the rhythmic movements of belly dance can release oxytocin – which is a feel good hormone that also encourages contractions.  (See Belly Dance Fitness for Mamis-to-Be!)  The rhythm also helps create a hypnotic mental state (something my doula calls “labor-land”), which gets the laboring woman out of her head so she can work with her body through the labor.

The best movements for labor pain management are hip circles, spirals, the figure eight, hand and arm movements, and chest isolations.  The hip circle and the figure eight help to rock and swivel the baby into an anterior position (baby’s back facing your front), and into tucking/flexing its head in preparation for birth.

Here are two videos of women belly dancing through their labors:

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