Women aren’t meant to give birth on their backs. It just doesn’t work as well! Throughout the ages and throughout the world, women have moved, swayed, squatted, and danced through their labor. In the Middle Eastern culture I come from, that movement is whats been coined “belly dance”. It is a sensual dance that helps the birthing mother move in a way that opens her body – and her emotions – to the enormous change about to occur. If the body is loose, and especially if there’s a sexy feeling throughout the labor, the birthing muscles open like a flower and the powerful hormone cocktail that floods the system is free of adrenaline, which can slow labor.
The fluid movements feel wonderful throughout pregnancy as well, and the BellyDanceBirth® techniques I teach in my EmbodyBirth™ classes, book and DVD Dance of The Womb, eases the back, hip, and leg pains so common during pregnancy while at the same time toning the birthing muscles. It also helps make the mama feel good about her changing body!
The best belly dance movements for labor are hip circles, figure 8, hip rocking and swaying, pelvic spirals and incorporate walking. If you can practice these during pregnancy, they will effortlessly be there for you when you enter into labor.
Your greatest liberation when contractions start – which I call expansions – is that you will not have to think about what you are doing but allow your birthing body in all its primordial knowledge to naturally assume the different positions required to ease your baby into the world. This instinctual knowing with the aid of practice of the dance movements during pregnancy helps to eliminate birth fears. It inspires you to become active in your birth experience, confronting, expressing, and moving through every nuance that arises. Birth is in your hands, heart and womb with YOUR baby.
The major mantras that I always share with women who strive towards a conscious birthing experience is: Your body knows what to do in birth, so allow and trust it. Circling, swaying, moving and rocking all help in the rotation and descent of the baby into the pelvic cavity while massaging baby’s bag of waters or baby’s head down onto the cervix, aiding its thinning and dilation. If the circle doesn’t feel right, try the figure 8, or merely rocking the hips from side to side, forwards and backwards, embracing your contractions and trusting that your body knows what to do. Changing positions in an upright stance also ensures a continuous blood supply to your baby (as opposed to lying on your back) and can reduce the length of your labor. Any positions where the body is in a forward leaning stance (this includes squatting) are highly beneficial in opening the pelvic outlet (it can increase up to 28%!) as your coccyx and sacrum lift and open. You can use a ball or be in water. Reclining positions, on the other hand, can narrow and close the space of the pelvis especially the pelvic outlet.
So, when contractions aka expansions start up in earnest, don’t panic: lean forward, draping yourself over your partner, a birthing ball, a wall, a chair, and circle and spiral those hips. Dance that baby out without resistance and you may even find that you are enjoying your birth journey! It could be the most spectacular event of your life, and believe it or not, it’s just as natural to your body as breathing.