Almost three years ago, when I first realized I was pregnant, many questions ran through my head. Among them, “How will pregnancy affect my dancing and teaching?” I wondered about modifications I’d have to make as I moved. I worried that aspects of the pregnancy (like morning sickness) might interfere with my duties in the classroom. I hoped that I’d be able to keep up with my rigorous schedule. And, like all moms, I wanted to provide a secure and safe environment for my child so that he or she would have the best chance for healthy development.
And, like many young moms, I turned to the internet (and to books… lots and lots of books) for the answers! Here is what these resources, others (like my doctor), and my experiences taught me. I hope, if you currently have the same questions and concerns that it will be a help to you!
Will I have to stop dancing or teaching?
Though you may be confronted with a few naysayers or complete strangers eager to tell you the horrors experienced by their friend’s sister’s cousin’s daughter’s dance teacher, most doctors will tell you that if you are experiencing a healthy, normal pregnancy, you should be able to safely continue doing what you were doing prior to conception. The key is to listen and respond to your body’s signals, communicate the requirements of your work to your doctor, discuss any problems or issues that arise, and be sensible, erring on the side of caution when it comes to possible dangers (like turning, partnering, jumping, etc). Of course, it helps to know what the potential risks and concerns are so that you can avoid them. This Q&A response from BabyCenter.com offers a brief overview of some of the changes your body goes through in pregnancy.
These are some simple modifications you can make during dance class that will reduce the risk of injury to you and your baby.
- Don’t push yourself to exhaustion or overexertion. Use this time to improve your verbal communication skills when it comes to teaching.
- Mark or modify your jumps.
- Avoid high-speed or quick-changing movement as it will become easier to pull or injure muscles and ligaments as the pregnancy progresses.
- Avoid situations in which you risk getting bumped into or in which you might fall (turning, pointe work, partnering, and contact work are potentially risky).
- Drink lots of water and carry snacks with you (if you don’t already).
- It’s a good idea not to spend a lot of time on your back, particularly later in pregnancy.
- Avoid positions that compress the abdomen.
- Avoid inverted positions (like handstands).
- Be prepared to need a hand occasionally – this may be in the form of a student assistant, a substitute teacher, a willing parent, or other family members.
- Two’s Company — Dance Teacher Magazine
- Pregnancy Tips — Dancing Smart
- The Pregnant Dancer — The Examiner
- Dancing Pregnant — The Dance Primer
And if you’re contemplating starting a dance class for pregnant women, read Dancing for Two from Dancer Universe.
I became pregnant in the fall and continued to teach through recital performances in the spring, by which time I had entered the beginning of my third trimester. I continued to do mostly everything I had done before I became pregnant. I got up and down off the floor with my 3 and 4-year-olds. I demonstrated exercises for my older classes (though later in the pregnancy I did a lot more indicating than full-out demonstrating). I enjoyed sweating it out with my adult jazz classes, though I did find that I became short of breath more easily. I continued with small jumps (occasional, or non-repetitive jumps that is) for a while but easily recognized when I had to give that up. I did less turning because eventually I sensed my balance was not in the same place I’d left it!
My morning sickness was more like an all day nauseous feeling, during which I had no appetite. But it lasted only about six weeks (which of course seemed eternal at the time). This aspect of pregnancy (and many others) is different for everyone. In fact, you will find your own ways to deal with the discomforts of pregnancy and you will likely find that the people around you (other teachers, studio owners, parents, and your students) are immensely forgiving. Rarely will anyone fault you for those moments when you need to run to the restroom, when you need to sit down, or even if circumstances beyond your control sideline you for a while.
Overall, my pregnancy was an easy one. Teaching and dancing, I believe, helped with this. It kept me mobile and relieved the soreness and stiffness that sleeping in the same position all night caused. My first trimester was tiring, during my second trimester I had tons of energy though some things were more challenging because of my changing shape, and during my third I was more annoyed than anything as my ankles swelled like water balloons (didn’t they know I had three recital weekends to get through?). I was HUGE in my final eight weeks of pregnancy (my son was nine-and-a-half pounds… yes, you read that correctly) and I was spared teaching during that time by sheer coincidence.
Though some days it took extra effort to feel motivated, though sometimes I felt uncomfortable or tired, though occasionally dancing was the last thing I wanted to do, I was more often than not excited and happy to experience the many changes and sensations that pregnancy brings while continuing to dance. My tired, swollen feet were a reason to treat myself to a soothing bath. My round, growing belly was affectionately patted and kissed by my youngest students who seemed as excited as I was about the baby to come. And I got to share with my unborn son my sense and experience of music, motion, and rhythm on a daily basis.
Have you taught through pregnancy?
Share your experiences to help prepare other expectant dancing moms.
Can you offer other health tips?
What about teaching soon after delivery?
(I have no personal experience with this… that’s how this blog came to be!)