Written by Tiffany Liu
In the middle of an already crazy year that was 2020, my husband and I found out we were expecting a little human. I guess in a way it was perfect timing as all of our travel (both business and pleasure) plans were cancelled giving me the opportunity to focus on growing body parts in my belly. Pole dancing has become such an essential part of my life for the past almost 8 years that during my first appointment to the OBGYN the only question I had for her was, “Can I still pole?”
Prior to getting preggers, I had seen videos of pregnant polers and had always aspired to be like them. Wow, Iron X-ing at 35 weeks?! #goals right there. However now at 35 weeks pregnant and 35+ pounds heavier I have come to the realization that the iron x-ing pregnant lady will not be me. I can barely lift myself in a bracket grip and even doing a windmill has left me huffing and puffing. And you know what? That’s okay.
I was curious about other pole dancers out there who had gone through pregnancy or were also currently pregnant. What were their experiences like? How was it physically and mentally getting back to pole dancing after having a baby? I’m sure other future pole mamas out there would love to hear their stories so during the middle of my pregnancy I had the opportunity to interview some amazing pole and (soon-to-be-pole) mamas!
* Please note that these anecdotal experiences do not in any way replace professional, medical advice.
Pole Dancing While Pregnant
8 weeks pregnant and at my first OB appointment, I asked my doctor if I could still pole dance. She told me I could continue to pole but to avoid back bends or anything that strains the abdominal region. She also told me to be mindful of how long I would be hanging upside down. Happy to hear this advice I trotted out of the office with the plan to continue my practice as normal with the precautions in mind.
But oh boy, did my body have another thing in store for me. I was totally unprepared for all the physical and mental changes of pregnancy especially at this early stage. I knew about morning sickness but I didn’t really know how terrible it would be for me during my first trimester. I would be nauseous throughout the whole day with my sickness leading up to some quality one on one time with the toilet bowl in the early evenings. Needless to say, I stopped pole dancing during my first trimester. As my sickness got a little better, I went back to in studio classes again. I still had most of my strength in tact but I did find myself being a little less ball-sy with new moves. I didn’t push myself as much and was just happy to be able to move around the pole. However, as the Covid-19 cases started creeping up again I decided to stop going in person to the studio and went back to virtual classes. While it’s amazing what technology has allowed, poling at home is not quite the same as being in the studio. With my lessened motivation and growing belly, it became harder to pole that I eventually stopped around 28 weeks. Nowadays it’s gentle stretching, some conditioning and daily dog walks until my daughter is born and I can get back to the pole. Although I miss twirling around that metal pole dearly, I find it nice to give my body a break and to allow it to do it’s thing.
Many of the pole mamas I interviewed were also able to continue their pole practice and shared some common tips and advice.
Amanda, a lyra and pole instructor, was fortunate enough to have an “easy” pregnancy and was able to pole throughout her entire pregnancy. Along with the advice of her doctor, she set up a list of basic “rules” for her training.
“My rules were: no falling or hard impact and no pressure or force on my abdomen. The falling/sudden impact meant no flips and only doing moves I was 100% sure I could successfully do. Pressure on the abdomen mostly affects certain pullovers and hangs in lyra and then also some leg hangs for pole...your body naturally refrains from certain things as they become more difficult. It was hard to overdo it in training because at a certain point, you just can’t.”
Jessica, a pole mama from Northern Ireland, also able to continue her training but avoided certain moves and made sure to let her instructors know about her pregnancy so they could give her the proper modifications.
Amazingly some were even able to still compete during their pregnancies such as Amanda and Christine. Christine, who is currently pregnant and expecting in February, has been pole dancing since 2011 and is a pole dance instructor at two studios. During her training, she prioritized the safety of the baby by changing her routine to moves that she was confident and comfortable with.
“When I had started my routine I was about 10 weeks pregnant and finished my last run when I was 16 weeks pregnant. I had so many ideas of combos and tricks I wanted to accomplish but as the weeks went by my body and mind had a different plan for me. Some of the hurdles I encountered early on were: very sweaty hands, fatigue, still dealing with nausea and vomiting, starting to put on more pounds, and emotional frustration when a certain move/concept wasn't going as planned. The emotional toll was definitely the hardest for me to overcome. Realizing in my head I knew I could do these moves but my subconscious was like "nope you have a little one growing and we can't be doing these things now." I am very blessed that I have some amazing friends who helped me along my pregnancy competition journey and I truly couldn't have done it without all their love, support and kind words.”
For Nikki, a pole dancer of 11 years and instructor, she shifted her training to spin pole and choreography when certain tricks became too physically demanding and when the pandemic lockdown changed her teaching schedule.
“I felt so strong during my pregnancy just before lockdown in March. Around 6 months, I decided to stop inverting and laybacks to avoid DR (diastasis recti) and it was getting a little more difficult anyway. I also started to lose my nerve a little bit too in the riskier moves but I guess that’s natural. I carried on doing pole choreo and spin pole to stay fit and strong. I was teaching four classes a week before lockdown but during it just one online class ... I feel like I could have stayed stronger and carried on a little longer had I have been doing it more often. But perhaps it was better that I was forced to slow down. I stopped around 32 weeks but carried on dancing until 38 weeks.”
For many pole mamas, pregnancy is not only physically challenging but mentally as well. As pole dancers we are used to having our bodies do incredible things and it can be tough when you are no longer able to. Kerri is a long time pole dancer and burlesque performer. She is currently expecting her first child and shares how the physical changes of her body has affected her mentally.
“Although I know the changes in my body are natural and necessary, I’ve spent a decade constantly working on finesse, grace, and strength. It’s interesting how in the span of months my body has re-prioritized its functions for the child. It makes movement more difficult, it gets stressful because some things I literally could do six months ago I can no longer do now. I’ve come to the sad realization that I probably won’t be inverting anymore come the next two weeks. I am no longer able to deadlift which was one of my signature moves. I am no longer doing full fledged lay backs as that’s an intense abdominal crunch which my core finds uncomfortable. I’m finding that due to my body’s reprioritization, my stabilizing muscles and core control is being diminished due to its new function. Without that lack of control in my core, I’m finding it’s better for me not to push myself beyond things I know I’m comfortable with. Mentally I get mad and sometimes incredibly disappointed. As a traveling performer, how I look always was important and now I have to accept that the state is here although temporary. Depending on the day, I become emotionally frustrated with the changes however I know the endgame is worth it. I do have to remind myself of that when I hit walls.”
Christine also found it hard to see her body change so much and to not feel “sexy” in her new body.
“In the beginning it took me a while to even take my tank top off in classes for fear of my student's seeing I was putting on a few pounds and they also didn't know at that time. Majority of my pole clothes don't fit anymore, high waisted feels too tight on my tummy so low rise feels the best. When I do freestyle guided moving exercises I feel the fatigue set in around 1 1/2 mins then add the additional fun of wearing masks in class. Trying to find ways to move in this "new body shape" is tricky at times. When people say things like "oh you have a bit of a waddle now" or "oh you look huge" doesn't really make a girl feel good. Strapping on my heels for the first time was funny, I felt like a baby deer on ice. Pirouette turns felt different as far as balance goes, so trying to retrain a lot of that muscle memory is hard. I had 4 students who I taught through their pregnancy journey and let me tell you it's so different when you go through it yourself. Many times I know I push my limits and Tiny Snipper is there to remind me to take it down a notch. Trying to find what "feels good" and "sexy" to me in this ever changing body is a weekly meditation practice. I still am not fully there, will I ever be? Who really knows but all I know is I have to continue to be kind to myself and reflect as much as needed. “
Takeaway tips/advice if you plan to continue pole dancing while pregnant:
- Get professional/medical advice first! Every pregnancy is different and unique - make sure you ask your medical provider what you should and shouldn’t do during your pregnancy.
- Limit moves that strains the abdominal region and back bends. For many, inverting is one of the first things to go so if you are still training certain tricks/combos think of alternative ways to get into them.
- Stick to moves you are comfortable and confident with! Now is probably not the best time to learn something new. Better to be a little more risk-averse now that you have a little one growing inside of you.
- Switch up your training routine! While you may not be able to do as many trick based moves, that shouldn’t discourage you from dancing and finding movement with the pole. Perhaps take some lower level classes to condition yourself or choreography based classes to get that heart pumping. Plus, nothing boosts your feminine energy like slinking around in a pair of heels!
- Just do you! Whether you can only pole for a few weeks into your pregnancy or all the way up until your baby comes out, just remember that you know what’s right for you, your body, and your baby. Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
Pole Dancing Postpartum
Now that pregnancy is over and your baby is finally here, what does the road to recovery (both on and off the pole) look like? Short answer. Pretty darn challenging. But not impossible!
Emily, a mother of two, is a pole dance instructor and personal trainer who is planning to open her own studio in 2021. She experienced a high risk pregnancy for her first child and had her second pregnancy soon after her first was born that she was not able to pole during her pregnancies. She shares her postpartum experience:
“About 6 months after giving birth to my last child I re-entered the pole dancing world. I remember trying to invert right off the bat and it was like re-learning it all over again. I had a two finger ab separation from giving birth and amazingly, pole was what sewed it back together. I did have to relearn everything from the ground up it seemed, and had to regain all the strength I lost for three years, but I feel like I am now stronger than I ever was before. My children have grown up with a pole in the house and they absolutely love it. We all play together on it as a family and it's been such a wonderful experience to share with them."
Like Emily, Amanda also found inverting again to be quite the challenge.
“I remember inverts being very hard. Almost like my body didn’t know what to do. Kinda like a misfire between my brain and muscles. I started slow and stuck to things I was very comfortable with and didn’t focus on learning new things. I did a couple photoshoots soon after giving birth and did my first postpartum competition 6 months after giving birth. I had a lot of strength back after 6 months, but I think it took me about a year to really get everything back.”
Nikki, who had a C-section, had both physical and mental roadblocks when it came to getting back into pole dancing.
"Post birth has been a roller coaster. For someone so in tune with their body and a strong mindset when it comes to achieving tricks and gets mental strength from being physically strong...to not have control over your body and to struggle to even basic invert was a huge deal for me. My lower core felt like it wasn’t part of the rest of my body. Also it was so strange to, in my mind, know exactly what to do when training a trick but my body just did not cooperate. It was so weird. Pole felt so unnatural to me now when it felt so natural before. And on top of all of that you have to recondition your skin for grip (but I can confirm contractions are more painful). My strength has come back quickly but my presentation leaves a lot to be desired. I’m using all my strength to get up so have nothing left for presentation. But slowly I’m getting there technique wise. The thing that shocked me the most was my courage in risky moves (that weren’t risky to me pre-pregnancy). For the first time in a long time I felt scared on the pole. But I feel like this has made me a more empathetic teacher, being reminded what it feels like to be a newbie trying things for the first time and not trusting you can do it. It has certainly been a journey that I’m still going through but each session little by little I’m moving forwards. I’m feeling mentally strong again because I’m feeling physically stronger. Plus I have a tiny audience member every time I train.”
Jessica also went through a c-section and restarted her training slow and steady.
"I was so excited to get back to it and couldn’t wait to get the doctor’s clearance at my 6 week postnatal check. Mentally, I was completely ready to start training again but the reality is, getting back on the pole after an emergency c-section was not easy. The main thing for me was not to put too much pressure on myself so I went in with zero expectations and just let myself trust the process and my body. COVID and the lockdowns hit not long after I restarted so the studio had to shut but luckily I had a pole at home to use. During this time, I took full advantage of online choreo & flow classes as well as gentle training which helped to build my strength back up. Whilst I have a lot less free time now, it is really important that I have some “me time” set aside each week to train. This consistency has helped to bring me back to the same strength and flexibility levels that I had pre-pregnancy. Overall my experience with recovery and getting back on the pole after birth was really positive, but I know that I may not be so lucky next time! Whatever happens, I’ll just be grateful to have a beautiful new baby in my life and know that the pole will always be waiting for whenever I am ready. "
It was encouraging to hear these pole mamas share their stories and how they were able to get back into pole dancing. While your lifestyle may be changing, just remember you'll always have a new little one cheering you on!
Last Words of Wisdom
“You are truly about to embark on the most incredible, special journey. When it comes to pole, be sensible as now is not the time to test your limits! However, only you will know what feels right so trust yourself and trust your instincts when poling during/after pregnancy; the journey is so different for everyone. Also, the cliche is 100% true - they grow up too fast so enjoy every single moment. Sure, I would love to be able to squeeze in an extra training session or two during the week, but I will never feel guilty about choosing to spend that time with my baby as I will never get it back. No matter how little or often you choose to pole, it will contribute to you being the best mum you can be. Do whatever works for you and most importantly - don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Good luck! ” - Jessica // @jesskingsnorth
“Your journey back is both physical and emotional. It’s not just about getting your body back or your strength back. It’s about getting your confidence back. Also your progress is not linear. It’s up and down. Expect there to be days when you feel like ‘I’m back’ and then the next time you train to feel like you’ll never be the pole dancer you once were. It feels impossible... but remember that everything you could do before having your baby at one point felt impossible too, until you did it. Be patient and self compassionate with yourself.” - Nikki // @uberedgedance
“For during: Be kind to yourself. Follow doctor recommendations. TAKE PICTURES AND VIDEO!!! Whether it’s on or off the pole, document your journey. If you choose to continue to work out, don’t go crazy trying to compare yourself to others. Focus on your own journey and enjoy it.
For after: Still, be kind to yourself and don’t compare your journey to anyone else. Take it slow coming back. Things will be different, so embrace the changes and look at the big picture- you now have this perfect little person you created. And, make time for yourself, even if it’s only a little time here or there.” - Amanda // @mandakicks
“Being pregnant is weird, it’s a challenge physically and emotionally. The good thing about it all though, is my body did need a break after 10 years. Also what’s to come of this temporary state will be very rewarding. I can get my strength back, I can get my finesse back; it’s just on hold for right now for other purposes. However it doesn’t mean I won’t be involved. I can still move and wear heels. I can still do the majority of my exotic movement as long as I’m not on my stomach and stay on the ground. It’s just basic movement for the time being and I’ll be back next year ready to hit the ground running.”- Kerri // @kerrinfuego
“Don't rush yourself or have expectations that the first day you jump back on the pole you will be where you were 9 months ago. Your body just produced a beautiful human and needs time to heal. Start over like you are a beginner and recondition your skin and your endurance. It will take time but you will come back stronger than ever!!! Pole is now my therapy and my time for myself more than ever and I have a higher appreciation for it because of that.” - Emily// @pnwpoledancer
Pole dance is a difficult hobby to maintain. We won’t always be at the top of our game. We can’t always think of new ways to transition into familiar tricks. We don’t always feel strong or sexy or bendy. Sometimes we hit a wall. And when that happens, it’s frustrating.