Did you know that belly dancing was literally created by women for women in the birthing room?!
In fact, women who are still a part of the heritage of Belly Dancing for Birth are heartbroken at the idea of belly dance being on display the way it is now in some places.  Men were forbidden from seeing these dances in the birth process, it was not a dance of seduction.
     Some sources say that the dances would be taught to girls after they hit puberty to prepare them for childbirth.  Then when the time came to have a baby, fellow tribeswomen would gather around the woman in childbirth and perform the dance.  The purpose here is to hypnotize the woman in labor into an imitation of the movements with her own body.  It greatly facilitates the birth and reduces pain from womb contractions, it helps the mother to move with instead of against the contractions.
Different cultures have had their own very similar takes on this idea of dancing the baby into the world.  Childbirth is something that must be prepared for.  Dormant muscles must be built up little by little, step by step.  All it takes is a little work.  Strengthening the muscles also helps in carrying the child through pregnancy.  Belly Dancing was intended for all of these things.  In a way, belly dancing is the oldest form of natural childbirth instruction!

Benefits 

Belly dancing can be especially good for muscles that are used during labor and delivery, and of particular benefit for the pregnant woman.  Some of the muscles that are specifically strengthened during Middle Eastern dance, which can benefit the pregnant woman: 

  • The muscles of the abdominal wall (rectus abdominus, obliques): These muscles are used in performing chest circles, undulations, belly flutters and rolls, and are the same muscles that come into play when the woman is pushing during delivery.
  • The gluteal muscles (the bottom): These are used when doing hip lifts, drops, and locks.
  • The quadriceps (the thighs): these are used to support the body during dance, and with traveling movements.
  • Pelvic floor muscles: These are indirectly exercised when doing pelvic rolls and tucks.  These muscles are directly involved in the birthing process.

Other muscle groups that are strengthened by belly dance:

  • Rectus abdominus muscles (long front belly muscles) used in combination with the pyramidalis (just above the pubic bone).
  • Obliques/transversalis (muscles that wrap around from the back to the waist in front) are also strengthened.
  • Vaginal muscles: strengthened when performing pelvic omi circles slowly, with tightening of the vaginal muscles.  This exercise can help with pushing during labor, and strengthens the support for the base of the bladder and the uterus.
General Benefits:
  • Improves body image and self esteem
  • Improves posture and core stability
  • Movements promote optimal position of the baby in the uterus/pelvis during pregnancy
  • Learn to recognize tense muscles
  • Increases breathing capacity, rib cage mobility, and space for stomach to function optimally (prevents gas & constipation)
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces symptoms of fatigue
  • Conditions the mind to focus on moment to moment awareness, which is a great tool for labor
  • Belly dance movements are nurturing for the baby
  • Babies at 20 weeks and beyond can enjoy music played (which has been found to calm and relax newborns when hearing the same song from when in utero)