Getting into the baby groove


Light exercise is beneficial to pregnant women, and tailored dance classes are a good option, writes SIOBHAN O'NEILL WHITE

MENTION DANCING to any mother to be and you’ll find it’s not top of their priority list. But Dancing for Birth classes, new to Ireland, promise to make labour and birth easier.

These dance classes, which are designed specifically for pregnant women, include movements such as the “Dilation gyration” and “double hip squeeze” are all set to up-tempo music, to teach the mums-to-be about positions they can take which help prepare them for labour and birth.

Being upright and mobile during labour has many benefits to both mums and babies.

It has been shown to make labour more comfortable and for many women it also reduces the time in labour.

At the Dancing for Birth classes, women learn a series of positions they can recreate before and during labour and birth. So while they enjoy the fun exercise class and have a chat and giggle with other expectant mums at some of the moves they learn, when the time comes, these moves they have learned will be beneficial for helping get baby into the optimal position for birth.

Carol McGowan from Julianstown, Co Meath, is a third-time mother-to-be and decided to head along to a recent Dancing for Birth class at City North Hotel, Co Meath.

“I am 38 weeks pregnant with my third child and decided to give the class a go, as it sounded like it could be a lot of fun,” she says.

“I had done pregnancy yoga before but this sounded like something different, so I went along with my sister to check it out.”

McGowan says the moves they learned were easy to get into and that she plans to use them before and during labour, to move things along.

“Aside from the positions, we had great fun in the class,” she says. “It was very informal, the music was light and there were plenty of opportunities to chat and interact with the other mums-to-be. It was good craic and, much to my surprise, it was also a good cardiovascular workout!”

After almost an hour of dancing, the teacher ends the class with some meditation and relaxation, to encourage a wind-down.

“I enjoyed the meditation at the end of the class and had a good sleep that night, which is a rarity at this stage of pregnancy,” says McGowan.

“It was a fun and interesting class and I would definitely recommend it for other mums-to-be. Since the class I have been practising the moves at home with my two daughters, Aoibhin and Moya, and they love doing it with me.”

In a recent UCD study, three out of four Irish mothers fell below the recommended exercise levels for pregnancy.

Traditionally pregnancy was thought to be a time to slow down but more and more research recommend light frequent exercise right up to and including labour.

Pregnancy doesn’t have to mean feeling constantly tired and frumpy or being wrapped in cotton wool and the Dancing for Birth classes help improve endurance, which is important for labour and also works on cardiovascular health and tones the all-important muscles for birth and beyond.

Tracy Donegan, who is running the classes in Ireland, says, “Long before epidurals became routine, women moved around in labour, circling their hips as an effective way to help the baby descend.

“The movements taught in Dancing For Birth classes are focused on getting baby into the best position for an easier birth by creating as much space as possible in the pelvis, as baby makes its journey down.”

Donegan says the one-hour class can be started at any time during pregnancy and is a welcome change for those who prefer more “zip” than “zen”.

“Enya is definitely not on the playlist at this class – there is more Pitbull than panpipes,” she says.

“Classes are tailored to every level of fitness and mums do not need to have any dancing background, but a sense of humour is a must.

“Mums learn dance moves that are inspired by Latin, African and belly dancing – think of it is as a fun, low-impact Zumba class.

“Mums also learn birth preparation skills and comfort measures for the most positive birth possible.”

Classes are run in Cork, Dublin and Meath. A free trial will be held on September 5th at Backstreet Dance Studios in Airside, Swords., 087-0572500