Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Not Your Mom's Lamaze Class

By Elisabeth Salemme / Brookfield Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007

Stefanie Masters , front row, far left teaches a pre-natal belly dancing class to women at the Maternity Mall in Brookfield, WI. Keri Pickett / WPN for TIME

The latest twist in childbirth prep involves jangling sequins and hip-shaking Middle Eastern music. As the growing popularity of belly dancing ripples across the U.S.--helping many a gymgoer wiggle off unwanted pounds--the ancient art form is also being practiced by moms-to-be to stay fit and ease their way through labor. From Georgia to California, dance instructors have started tailoring classes to help pregnant women with their flexibility, strength and breathing. "As soon as we feel pain, we tense up and hold our breath," says Stefanie Masters, who teaches two free classes a week in a maternity store in Brookfield, Wis. "Dancing helps build focusing skills, so as soon as that pain happens, we can breathe through it."

In addition, belly dancing's pelvic gyrations strengthen the muscles that are most important for labor and help position the baby for delivery. A colorful--and often scarf-intensive--offshoot of the epidural-free childbirth movement, undulating workouts have been a hot topic on maternity blogs since last year's DVD release of Prenatal Bellydance, which remains among the top-selling fitness and yoga DVDs on Amazon.com

But is it safe? Yes, says Dr. Sue Kelly Sayegh, associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. Low-impact exercise is recommended five to seven days a week during pregnancy. Although Sayegh warns against overexertion as well as fast-paced footwork that could lead to a fall, she says: "The art of breathing while doing other things is an excellent preparation for labor."

Indeed, last month one of Masters' students went into labor during class and gave birth the following morning without any pain medication. Says Masters: "She danced throughout her delivery."

Of course, there are plenty of skeptics, including the mothers of many pregnant belly dancers. "It seems silly to her," Amy Payne, 28, a nurse from Brookfield, says of her mother, who, according to Payne, once believed in only "bed rest and weight gain" during pregnancy. Payne was overweight when she conceived five months ago and says she lost 10 lbs. after she started taking Masters' classes in June. Fellow nurse Kelly Kuglitsch, 29, of Muskego, Wis., who is eight months pregnant, says belly dancing has made her backaches disappear. Another perk: "It makes me feel sexy," she says. "I go home and show my husband my new moves. He thinks it's really cute." Then again, no smart husband would dare say otherwise.

Source: Time.com

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