I am not a health care professional and what I have written is not a medical reference for pregnancy and you must check with your doctor. I have, however, been a pole instructor for 17 year. I am currently a level 3 qualified fitness instructor in group exercise and Pre and Post natal exercise both here in the UK and USA and I had my beautiful baby Blossom in May 2009. I am about to tell you about my pregnancy and the activities I did during it, but please understand that in some cases I am an exception to the rule and each and every one of us is different. I was exceptionally fit and healthy, so please do not base yourself on my experience.
Like any one who runs their own business making a living out of exercise/dance the first thing that entered my mind when I found out I was pregnant, was what am I going to do? I was in the middle of dieting for the BNBF body building finals and up to my eyeballs in renovating a 5000sq of dance and fitness studio, also I had just got over an operation to remove level five cancerous cells (so I didn't think I could even have a child) so even though we were trying I never thought for one minuet I would get pregnant on the first go, But I did!!!
i knew right away that i was pregnant. I felt it. I was teaching Trapeze when I said I felt like I was rocking around in a boat. I went home bought four tests and all of them said I was pregnant!
The dieting had to stop obviously but did the pole, exercise and teaching? I went to my doctor and asked what I should do. I was told that as long as I did not do contact sports I was fine to continue with what ever training I was doing ( I was doing a hell of a lot, so this scared me), how ever when I mentioned Pole dancing he just said , yes sure that's fine in a bit of an unsure way, but I wasn't so sure and every one that has been pregnant can relate to the fact that you go mad with
worry that every thing you do can potentially harm your child.....so I wasn't taking any chances!!!
As soon as I got home I ordered every book I could find on fitness during pregnancy and they were great if you wanted to do yoga or posture and alignment stuff, but nothing really covered high impact cardiovascular work, heavy strength training and of course pole fitness. I decided to speak to my personal trainer Annabel Ottey and she said lets continue with what we are doing and see how it goes and if at any time I am feeling in pain or too tired we either calm it down or stop. So this is the approach I took to my fitness and to teaching pole!
I am one of these people you hate.....I had the perfect pregnancy, I had a touch of sickness that lasted a month, a bit of heart burn and a lot of tears for my growing shape as I had never been large so it really effected me. Every one bangs on about how wonderful it is to have a growing shape but there are a lot of people out there that don't feel that way. Don't feel guilty if you are one of them, but do try and enjoy it. II wish I did a bit more because you get your body back very quickly if A) you had it before and B) if you are sensible about diet and exercise during and after pregnancy. I continued to do two personal training sessions a week with Annie, 8 aerobics sessions a week, 3 x 1 hour sessions of swimming, around 7 miles a week walking, 15 miles a week on the bike and of course
around 4 hours a week of pole teaching. You may think that's a lot but I was doing this much activity before I was pregnant and I felt great. There were no complications with my pregnancy and my doctors had no worries about me. Of course if there would have been a problem I would have either altered what I was doing or stopped altogether!
Believe it or not i got a lot of negativity and comments about my exercise but i would simply tell them
"I am pregnant not sick" and its true, so many people still believe its time to put your feet up and eat for two and I wanted to prove that that was definately not the case.
I want to go into detail about pole dancing/teaching, but please bare in mind I didn't show until I was around six and a half months pregnant and even then you wouldn't have asked me, for fear of offence lol!
About two months into my pregnancy I was asked to do a teaching tour of Singapore and Malaysia, I would have been four and a half months pregnant at the time so I thought long and hard about it and asked my doctor who said it was fine, so I went! No one noticed I was pregnant and I did a hell of a lot of teaching and travelling, but as always I felt fine, but I will say that at the end of the tour I was five months pregnant and I had to perform and it was definately one of my worst performances, I felt heavy, fat. ugly and most of all I felt very conscious of my baby, needless to say that was the last time I performed whilst pregnant. When I returned home I carried on doing my normal work out routine and teaching pole up until the week of my due date, but I will tell you that at around six and half months I felt afraid to go upside down, not because I was too heavy, but because one day I woke up and my strength had disappeared and as far as I was concerned if I couldn't support my weight safely and I wasn't going to risk my baby, so from around six and a half months I didn't go upside down. All the way through out my pregnancy I did not try learning any new moves as I felt that if I was going to fall It would be during practice time learning new moves.
Due to the changing of my centre of gravity I fell down the stairs three times (I also electrocuted myself, but that's another story) and I nearly gave my husband a heart attack as one time I really did fall hard taking the kitchen bin with me. I think that once your bump shows you just can not depend on your balance so even simple things like walking down the stairs can be dangerous.
I was fine for the next few weeks but as I reached the last month I found it very difficult to do even the basic spins, my weight, massive size and lack of strength just made me slide down the pole. I did continue as I felt I wasn't going outside my comfort zone. The last two weeks I had one of my advanced students demonstrating for me while I explained which worked well for just a few classes before I went on my maternity level....which lasted a few days. (I was even answering emails just after giving birth)
Not that its exactly relevant to instructing pole, but I would like to tell you about the birth. I had an 11 hour labour, which I spent five hours of that at home, I had an amazing water birth, no medication, an extremely healthy baby that weighed 7lb 15oz and she latched on and I breast fed her for 9 months........... I put this all down to keeping very fit though out my pregnancy!!!!
I has foolishly arranged POLE UNITY for three weeks after blossom birth, how ever I didn't anticipate Blossom coming a week late, so I had to get back to teaching my Tuesday class nine days after her birth as we have to practice for the show that I was performing in a week later. If I am honest it was far too soon, I could hardly walk let alone pole, I was breast feeding and my abdominals were no where near the condition they should have been to get back on the pole. A week later we had the show and although my boobies were huge from breast feeding and I was wearing a girdle to hold the belly in POLE UNITY went great and I performed ok. I wouldn't recommend any one to do this no matter how long you have been pole dancing for, it was a nightmare as all I wanted to do is be with my baby. A lesson well learnt!
So to sum up I am the exception to the rule, I don't just pole I do a lot of other exercise, so if you are an instructor listen to your body and where possible get other people to cover for you. I wouldn't recommend to any one to go back to performing or even teaching as soon as I did (please read below for the reasons why) how ever I really didn't have the choice as I had Pole Unity booked. With regards to getting fit post pregnancy there would have been a hell of a lot of things I would have done differently but I didn't know any different and I didn't have any one telling me other wise, so I hope what I write below helps you!
Now Some Science
Speak To your Health Care provider (doctor/specialist/midwife)!!!!
Before you do any thing contact you doctor and outline your intentions. Moderate exercise will not increase your chances of miscarriage if you have a low risk pregnancy. How ever you need to state to them that it will be pole dancing you will be taking part in. Get their opinion or get them to refer you to some one that knows about athletic exercise when pregnant, pole is NOT the same as Yoga so make sure you get them to understand that,
Do not exercise and consult your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Hypertension - High blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) - you can become very swollen
- Placenta Previa/ Vaginal Bleeding - The placenta grows low causing bleeding
- Premature Labour or a history of it.
- IUGR - Poor growth of the baby
- Heart Disease - Increased stress on the heart.
- Multiple Births - more than one baby.
Every Pregnancy is Different
Pole dancing and pregnancy has been such a grey area, as no fitness instructors who pole danced had become pregnant and wanted to continue teaching. You may suffer from different things to me so assess yourself, only YOU can tell how YOU are feeling. Do not push it, its just not worth
it. My experience might make you think that I may have over done it, but there was many times I slowed down or stopped as my body told me to! I never did any thing I wasn't 100% confidant in doing.
Are You A Student and Pregnant?
If you are new to pole, a student in a class situation or learning from home think about what you are doing carefully and I would recommend stopping certainly by 20 weeks if not far sooner. For the first trimester you Should be ( that is if your health provider say its ok and you have no pregnant
complications) fine continue maintaining your moves, You should definately NOT try out new inverted moves and you should be careful as you will be feeling many symptoms of pregnancy that make you feel unwell, dizzy and even uncoordinated. While it will generally take a massive trauma too loose your baby, the first trimester is the time where miscarriage is most likely to occur, so I would advise you take up another form of fitness if you can.
During the second trimester you may start feeling better, how ever your body is beginning to change shape, which means your centre of gravity is changing, which can make you off balance. Huge changes are taking place, the effects of a hormone called relaxin are coming into effect. Your ligaments and tendons (amongst other soft tissue) have become soft and loose in preparation for the widening of the pelvis for the birth of your baby. This makes your joints unstable and you could permanently damage your joints by either lifting too much weight( your body) or over stretching them (hanging from the pole or over reaching). Laying on your back for a period of longer than 2 minutes can effect blood flow to the baby, so supine floor work should not be performed. If you haven't given up by now you should as there are lots of different forms of exercise you can take up that will mean you are less likely to fall.
The third trimester you will start to feel tired again, your carrying a huge weight of baby and breasts and you may be feeling anxious about the birth, the last thing you should be thinking about is your pole, its only a few more months and you will be back on it so don't worry!!! Doing weight training with the arms over the head Is really not advised has it effects your blood flow and pole dancing is weight training with either one or both arms above your head, also you have that big bump in the way, its precious and you don't want to bang it. Your strength will have almost totally left you and you wont be able to lift yourself into a chair safely let alone a butterfly! Your abdominal muscles are either stretched to the limits or have opened down the centre, you can not contract them very well as they are stretched so you will find it very difficult to lift your legs to go into an invert. You probably wont be sleeping well as the baby is kicking a lot, your tummy is stretched so much that you think the baby may burst out and this is no shape to pole dancing in. If you are then I really think you now have to stop!
To sum up I wouldn't teach you, so you have to ask yourself should you be poling??? Its your choice but listen to your body, I can not tell you what to do, but I hope what I have written will help you, its only a few months of your life, it goes so quickly and you can come back to it!!! If you are reading this you love pole and exercise and that will make you determined to get back into it.
Are You An instructor and Pregnant?
You have now read what I did so I can not preach to you, However as always firstly listen to your doctor and your body. If you can get cover do it, if you cant get one of your students to demonstrate while you give teaching points, but make sure you demonstrator can already do the moves and don't teach any thing you can not safely do yourself. Believe it or not it goes really quick and your students understand and will stay until you come back. Don't learn any thing new, just maintain what you have. Don't go upside down in the last trimester (if not sooner, which I strongly advise) and if you do feel the need to invert don't hold position for long..
My fear was that my business would suffer because I couldn't teach any thing new and that every thing in pole dancing would run away from me, It didn't, my business is as strong, if not stronger than ever and what it has actually done is given me a new lease for pole as I have pushed myself further. Having a baby and exercising has given me a new in site into things I never new before and I feel blessed by the experience. It may feel like a life time, but as I look back now it went by so quickly and all my fears of loosing every thing and never getting my body back never materialized.
What I will say is that its hard running a business and having a baby. I said from the outset that If I did have a child I wanted to do every thing the right way, breast feed, look after her myself and not put her in a nursery right away, make all her food and not buy jars and be there for every mile
stone and nearly 9 months on I am proud to say that I have done that and don't regret a single thing, but it has been at a price, I couldn't work the 15 hours a day I was working before and I never really appreciated just how much time a baby takes up, its constant especially if your breast feeding. I recommend if you are pregnant, get as much stuff done as you can now as you just wont have the time when your baby arrives and don't expect every thing to be the same as it wont be. It took me 7 months to get back to work properly and I still didn't have my strength back, but it will come and it is so worth it as I have the funniest, cutest, cleverest little girl in the world and I know I have given he the best start in life.
Is one of your students pregnant?
I am pre and post natal fitness qualified and I wouldn't have some one that is pregnant in my class. Its simple if some thing happens do you want that on your head. Also your insurance will not cover you so that must tell you some thing. Recommend another style fitness class and if they are half way
through a course offer to hold it for them until they return, but I don't recommend that you teach any one that is pregnant, no matter their back ground or persistence.
Replacing pole with other exercise
Long gone are the day where you were told to put your feet up. If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy it is actually encouraged that as long as you were exercising before there is no reason not to continue to at medium to higher intensity.
There are many benefits including:
- Improved cardio vascular health
- Easier labour and less chance of intervention
- Better posture and less back ache
- Improved body image
- Less weight to get rid of post birth
- Less pregnancy symptoms such as sickens, swelling, and Varicose Veins
- More energy
- Healthier baby
So if you can not use your pole you should be exercising a minimum of 3 times a week for 30 minutes or more. Swimming, speed walking, aerobics (if you are already doing it), strength training, yoga, the list goes on, just don't give up and put your feet up unless your health care professional says so. Even though you feel ill and tired find a moment in the day where you don't feel bad and get exercising!!! It made me feel a lot better and my pregnancy and birth was a hell of a lot easier because of it.
So just because you can not pole any more it doesn't mean you can not maintain your fitness and strength levels so that its a hell of a lot easier to come back to the pole when you have the all clear from your doctor, just make sure you are doing it right. check out a pre and post natal fitness class in your area they are great for meeting other mums in your area and its great for discussing the ups and downs.
Post Pregnancy natural birth
Do start exercising straight away after the birth....wooohhhooo up there! I don't mean get on your pole, but start performing your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you are able to. Also walk around with your belly button pulled into your spine constantly, this will start contracting your abdominals back into shape, as they have been stretched and lengthen over the months, they take time to get back in shape. Also start walking as soon as you can. All of this can be performed with both a natural and c-section births. Apart from the above I would not do any other form of exercise until you have had your 6 (vaginal birth) or 8 week check (c-section), even after that I wouldn't go back to the pole until you have taken up an abdominal strength training program and this does not mean abdominal crunches or oblique exercises as all this will do is increase the stress on already week core. Make sure you ask your health care professional to check that your abdominals have returned to their pre pregnancy shape, the best person to ask is your midwife as they are always touching bellies. Just remember If you engage your abdominals in a supine position and you feel them forming a dome you are not pulling your abdominal into your spine, never perform a sit-up with out pulling them in or you can irreversibly damage them and you don't want that! Just remember
that lifting your legs to invert pulls on your lower abdominals so do not invert until you are sure they are in a good shape to do so.
You have to remember, your body is not the same as it was, it has been stretch and what with the fact your not getting younger your metabolism is starting to slow down, its going to be a bit harder than it was before. After the initial weight loss from baby, water retention, blood and placenta (usually around 7kg) you will still have more weight too loose after this and it does not just fall off!!!!
you need to work at it and that does not mean going back to your pole yet, your strength wont be what it was so go back slowly.
I really do advise breast feeding, as it was the best and most wonderful experience I have ever had, how ever breast feeding alone wont shift the weight, you need to exercise as well as eating a balanced diet. You only need an extra 300-500 calories a day and that is really only a yogurt, apple and some cheese so not that much when you think about it. Just remember It can take up to a year get back to pole dancing like you were before especially if your breast feeding, 8 months on an my body is still changing
Post Pregnancy C-section birth
If you have had a C-section you have to remember that it can take around 14 day for the stitches to heal, how ever this is just the surface stitching the internal stitching can take much longer. Do your pelvic floor, hold your tummy in and go walking, as soon as it feels comfortable then wait to see what your doctor says at your health check up. I wouldn't go back to the pole for around 12 weeks
or more. Its major surgery and can take up to a year to heal completely so really do listen to your doctor and your body.
Teaching a new mum.
I have always said that if you wish to join my class after giving birth you need to wait at least 12 weeks. The abdominals take time to get back into shape and pole dancing should not be a new mums first attempt at exercising. They should be looking at strengthening their core and back amongst other things. Also the hormone Relaxin can still be found in the body which means joint will still be unstable and holding the body weight from your arms is not the best thing for them. Stretching ligament and tendons at this stage will mean they are stretched for good and nothing but surgery will make them stable again and you do not want to go down this route. Also stretching
through out your pregnancy and directly after should be limited to maintaining flexibility not improving it, so stretches should be held for no longer than 8-10 seconds. If your student is breast feeding engorged breasts can make manoeuvring around the pole difficult and I my experience my breast took around 12 weeks to get into the swing of feeding. Finally a new mum is tired from getting up all night, learning complex moves on what could be if used incorrectly a dangerous pole is not the best idea.
I don't like the idea that may pole instructor are having by organising courses for post natal clients, If your not qualified in pre and post natal fitness then you shouldn't even be entertaining the idea and if you are I still do not think pole is the first port of call in regaining fitness levels. Simple walking or basic exercise that gets the HR up, balanced diet and a professional core strengthening program for
post natal clients should be implemented. So if you have read this please think long and hard about the idea, you wouldn't want to be responsible for damaging some one irreversibly would you, I know I wouldn't.
Please check out some of the website below that include guidelines to pre and post pregnancy exercise and fitness
Exercises to get back on the pole
These exercises should be commenced after your 6-8 week check (8-10 weeks for a C-Section). Make sure you complete each level before moving on to the next. Remember Relaxin can still be found in the body up to six months after the birth, so when you do get back on the pole take care warm up and not to put too much pressure on your joints.