Jan. 1, 2008 -- Artists like Shakira have thrusted belly dancing to the forefront of American popular culture. Now pregnant women have learned their "hips don't lie" when it comes to the delivery room.
The marriage of belly dancing and birthing is perfectly normal, according to midwife DeeDee Folkerts, who has taken belly dancing's ancient technique and applied it to childbirth.
"Every time I saw a woman give birth, I saw her do something that I was learning in my class. Whether it be an undulation of the belly or a circle of the hips or a wiggle of the hips, it was instinctual to them to do that," Folkerts said.
Instead of practicing special breathing patterns such as Lamaze, Folkerts encourages women to connect their mind and body to ease the delivery.
"Women tell me across the board that they feel more prepared for labor. They feel that they are more mindful," she said. "They feel like when labor begins, they are going to know how to work with their labor."
According to one anthropologist, belly dancing actually originated as a ritual of childbirth as well as seduction.
One doctor said the sway of belly dancing actually can aid during childbirth by helping to position the baby.
"I do encourage women to move their bodies in ways that help bring flexibility to their pelvis during early labor and actually sometimes during the pushing stage," said natural birth expert Dr. Elizabeth Alleman. "I think that how babies are born and how women give birth really matters, and so doing whatever it takes to be well prepared for birth … is really important."
Students of belly dancing in the delivery room, like Jaime Farris, hope the hip shaking will ease the natural births.
"I think that if I have any issues with the baby needing to be turned around or shifted, put into place, then that's when I'll put into practice some of those things," said Farris, who planned to have a natural home birth.
When the big day finally arrived, Farris used the techniques she learned.
"I had a very long labor — 91 hours. The baby, Georgia, had her back to my back, and her head was tilted," Farris said. "I would walk up the stairs and shift my hip to rock her head back into place."
"I did a lot of hip circles. Some of that helped to get her into the correct position," Farris said.
It should be noted that certain moves should be avoided, such as sharp hip drops and pops and anything requiring a woman to stand on her toes.