Why Dance in Pregnancy? – For the Green Parent, 2017
Have you ever danced around the living room in your pyjamas to one of your favourite songs and felt that lift of pure joy that makes moving seem effortless? Or is that just me? Well, whether or not you groove in your own home, it is good to know that the physiological effects of both exercise and happiness are very high up on the wellbeing scale.
Our inner chemistry changes when we are having fun. Hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin are released in to our bloodstream which continue this pleasure cycle by saturating us with good feelings. Physical exercise also helps our bodies to secrete endorphins which support our immune system, reduce stress and physical discomfort and which balance and uplift our emotions.
So what does this have to do with pregnancy? Well, pregnancy is a time when women are inwardly surging with hormonal activity, and increasingly so towards the moment of birth. We literally have so much more going on inside us hormonally than at any other time in our lives, and these natural chemicals we produce constitute the biological mastery behind initiating and sustaining labour and childbirth.
In other words, our hormones are key to helping us give birth. But some of these curious substances have certain conditions that suit them better, for example oxytocin, the ‘LOVE’ hormone and the most important of them all, cannot be secreted easily in the presence of stress hormones like adrenalin. So being able to relax and feel safe is essential in pregnancy and labour. And melatonin, a relaxant hormone, needs darkness or dim lighting to be generated, which is why so many labours start in the early hours of the morning darkness when our melatonin levels are highest.
And the part of the brain responsible for dispensing our hormonal cocktails is the Hypothalamus or the reptilian ‘back brain’ which does its job beautifully in labour when we can just ‘be’ and we don’t have to think about anything. In fact its’ work can only be interfered with by our ‘front brain’, or Neocortex, if we have to think more analytically. And music engages the areas of the brain that relate to our emotions, including the hypothalamus, so rhythm and melody can act as vital ingredients to entice us out of the front brain and into the back!
If a pregnant woman has a dimly-lit space where she can stretch out and relax through enjoying movement and music and just ‘being’, this is like the idea of heaven on earth for her inner chemistry, as her body prepares for childbirth. And the more we make spaces like this during our pregnancy, the easier it is for us to relax into labour when the time comes.
As a mother of two, I gave birth twice at home and during both nocturnal labours, we created a candle-lit birth space where I could focus on music, breath and my own kind of labour-dance. It worked for me and I am so grateful to have been able to experience childbirth in this way. This is why I have been moved to share the methods I used, and for over a decade I have been facilitating birth preparation courses which include dance.
Pregnancy Dance ™ classes offer women a calm space to gently unravel the tensions of daily life, to connect with awareness to their breath, to their bodies and to their babies-in-utero. Each class includes guided exercises and relaxation techniques as well as an invitation for women to move freely at their own pace. They provide the perfect opportunity for really enjoyable and effective birth preparation.
5 To Tips for the Healthiest Pregnancy Possible
Eat & drink well! Find a good nutritional programme that suits your personal needs and make sure that you are topping up with low-sugar healthy snacks, lots of fresh foods and pure water.
Exercise gently and often. Practice exercise that brings you joy. Keep checking-in with how your body feels and remember to keep within your comfort zone physically.
Find ways of relaxing every day. The benefits of relaxation hugely contribute to a healthy pregnancy and there are so many moments we can claim just to rest, watch our breath, bring our mind into the present moment and release worries, etc. A mindfulness practice, even if only 10 minutes a day, is excellent.
Keep life simple. Especially towards the end of your pregnancy, avoid screen overuse in the evenings, reduce stress; spend time in nature and in candle-lit spaces.
Feel the Love. Maximise your oxytocin levels by doing what you love and being around people you love. Hugging, laughter and everything on the love spectrum is the way to go!