The Ancient History of Pregnant Belly Dance
Belly dance and pregnancy have been connected for thousands of years. Over 5,000 years ago, the first women to do the dance we now call belly dance were performing it as part of a fertility ritual to venerate a female goddess. As they danced for their goddess, women performed dance movements that mimicked the process of childbirth.
Over thousands of years as people stopped worshipping many gods and started adopting monotheism, the religious significance of belly dance fell away. What’s left today is the same dance that celebrates a female’s beauty and power during childbirth.
Many researchers theorize that belly dance has been passed on from mother to daughter in Arab culture as a way to prepare girls for childbirth. For hundreds of years—before the invention of medicine to ease pain—Arab women have belly danced during pregnancy.
According to belly dance researcher Morocco, pregnant belly dance eases discomfort and keeps a new mother calm throughout labor. In her writings, Morocco describes traveling to the Middle East to witness a birthing ceremony involving belly dance.
According to Morocco, in a remote village, a pregnant woman is housed in a special tent with men banned from being within a certain distance. The pregnant woman’s female family and close friends are the only people allowed inside the tent. They dance around the pregnant woman, leading her to dance with them. She will dance up until the moment of the birth.
While Western women have never taken part in such birthing rituals, modern pregnant women are turning to belly dance to help them through pregnancy. In every major city, you can find either a belly dance teacher or doula who specializes in pregnant belly dance.
How Safe Is Pregnant Belly Dance?
Doctors say that pregnant belly dance is very safe. As a form of low-impact exercise, belly dance helps keep expectant mothers fit and eases stress.
Belly dance teachers will also tell you that pregnant belly dance has another effect on pregnant women: it makes them feel good about their bodies.
While many pregnant women feel energized, happy, and beautiful during pregnancy, others feel odd. With so many changes happening in a woman’s body during pregnancy, the experience of pregnancy can make a woman feel self-conscious.
Many women who practice belly dance while pregnant will cite a side-effect of the dance as allowing them to embrace and love their pregnant forms.
Pregnant Belly Dance Precautions
Doctors advise that belly dancing while pregnant is safe as long as you stick to smooth movements that don’t stress your pelvis or lower back. Because pregnancy hormones make joints very flexible, it’s important not to stretch the pelvis too far.
A good prenatal belly dance practitioner will be familiar with the anatomy of pregnancy and alter standard belly dance moves to make them suitable.
Doctors also caution that pregnant women who belly dance should be careful not to move too quickly. Fast movements can cause falls which should be avoided at all costs.