Pole during Pregnancy

Updated: Jul 15

So you have chosen YOUR form of exercise. It includes a shiny vertical pole, maybe some heels and some cute outfits. You feel strong and fab and you never really want to go back to old boring *insert other modes of exercises that you do not enjoy*. Now you’re addicted to flying and flipping, going upside down, burning your thighs and the awesome community that screams and claps at you when you get that trick you’ve been working on for weeks, months or years.

But does this all have to change now that you just received wonderful news that you are pregnant? NO absolutely not! The purpose of today’s blog is to help you feel more confident moving and dancing during pregnancy.


Photo of Bailey Hart Mid Pregnancy

**Please remember that this blog does not substitute the advice of your medical professional. There are various pregnancy related health complications and conditions that are contraindications to exercise. It is recommended that you get medical clearance to ensure you are safe to exercise prior to pole dancing (RANZCOG, 2020).


Why should you continue doing pole or aerial during pregnancy?


There are so many benefits to exercising during pregnancy. So if you have the all clear from your medical team and you are not nauseated or feeling absolutely exhausted, then DO IT! The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) recommend pregnant women get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, aiming for 30-60 minutes per session daily.

Keep in mind your body is experiencing significant hormonal changes that are impacting all your bodily systems which can lead to you feeling tired, weak, and sore. Coupled with having to work and care for your family, you might find that you don’t have time either. So listen to your body but remember movement is medicine.

Here are some reasons why you should keep exercising during pregnancy:


Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
  • Pregnant or not, we all need to move to keep us healthy mentally and physically.

  • It can help you maintain or improve your cardiorespiratory endurance (Cai et al., 2020; Gavard & Artal, 2008; Price et al., 2012) - so dance your cardio!

  • It can help you maintain or improve your muscle strength, endurance and flexibility (Cai et al., 2020; Gavard & Artal, 2008; Price et al., 2012)

  • Maintain your coordination, balance, power, reaction time, speed and agility (de Oliveria Melo et al., 2012; Gavard & Artal, 2008; Price et al., 2012) - what better way to prepare the skills you need to keep your toddler off the ladder all whilst breastfeeding your new bub

  • Avoid gestational weight gain and its consequences (Díaz-Burrueco et al., 2021; Dipietro et al., 2019; Elliott-Sale et al., 2015; Muktabhant et al., 2012; Pelaez et al., 2019)

  • Reduce your risk of of developing gestational diabetes (Dipietro et al., 2019)

  • Reduce the severity of your new pregnancy related aches and pains such as pelvic girdle pain, lower back pain, rib pain etc.(Davenport, Marchand, et al., 2019)

  • Reduce risk of delivering a big baby (Wiebe et al., 2015)! (We know the impacts this one can have on your pelvic floor)

  • Reduces the need for an assisted vaginal delivery and prolonged labour (Davenport, Ruchat, et al., 2019)

  • There is a possibility that exercise may also reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia (Aune et al., 2014; Díaz-Burrueco et al., 2021). A condition that causes your blood pressure to be high during pregnancy, which can lead to serious complications for mum and baby.

See! There are so many reasons why you should continue to exercise during pregnancy! Now it’s about making sure you’re doing so safely.


How to train safely for Mama and Bub


The RANZCOG exercise during pregnancy guidelines suggest that you may safely continue most pre-pregnancy activities and should modify them as you go (RANZCOG, 2020). But with all that said, there are some risks associated with exercise during pregnancy, particularly in an aerial sport like pole or lyra.


So here are some things to be careful of when you are training:


Photo of Michelle Shimmy by The Blacklight Sydney

1. Don’t bump the bump!

  • Avoid exercises that pose a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma due to risk of injury and placental abruption. You may be a master at flips and fonjis, but perhaps leave them out of your training for now because they are risky tricks. Instead keep the exercise simple, fun and risk free! This also means that learning new tricks when you are pregnant may not be the best idea if it puts you at risk of falling. For example, if you are in an elite level, tricks like an invert are your bread and butter. So it’s probably ok for you to continue inverting during pregnancy if you’re feeling good and up for it. But if you are a beginner and still training to master your invert, it might not be the right time to continue training inverts. This is because learning new tricks and going upside down can put you at greater risk of injuring yourself and bub.


  • Avoid starting a new high-level skill if you’ve never done it before. Stick to what you know and take this time to finesse your movement and skills

2. Avoid high impact exercises

  • Avoid too much jumping to reduce the risk of joint and pelvic floor stress. But again, don’t stop the exercise altogether. Just modify and make the exercise low impact.

3. Avoid exercises lying on your back after the first trimester.

This is because the weight of your baby can compress an important vein (inferior vena cava for you nerds) that brings blood flow to your heart. If this happens, you can feel dizzy, lightheaded and or faint. Whilst not dangerous to the baby, it’s not great for you! So make your instructors get creative with changing the position of the exercise, or if you must, lie on your back at a 45 degree angle (prop yourself on a pillow or lean against a couch)

4. Avoid overheating and dehydration

The current evidence recommends that it is safe to exercise for up to 35 minutes at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate in regular temperature rooms (Ravanelli et al., 2019). But, depending on where you live in the world, be sure to avoid prolonged land based exercises in extremely cold and warm conditions. This means it should be ok for you to do your local studio pole classes, if you take into account the warm-up and cool downs.


A great way to know whether you are working at the appropriate intensity is a talk test! So while you’re doing that trick combo, keep talking to your mate or instructor and tell them about your new weird appetite.And don’t forget to keep hydrated! Bring that water bottle and make sure you’re getting at least 1.5-2L of fluid intake.


Photo of Felix Cane Mid Pregnancy

5. Avoid straining

Be sure to avoid straining as it can reduce blood flow to the uterus and placenta, as well as weaken the pelvic floor. This often feels like you are holding your breath which generates an increase in pressure in your abdomen that pushes down on the pelvic floor. Kind of like the feeling you get when you push and strain to open your bowels. Another way you can tell is when you look bright red because you haven’t taken a breath for that whole 2 minute combo.


So don’t hold your breath, make sure you breathe whilst you exercise and squeeze your pelvic floor if you’re lifting your body or something heavy. Pole and aerial can be super hard so you may have to get creative and make modifications that will suit you!

6. Avoid abdominal bulging or doming

I’m sure you all have heard of abdominal separation in pregnancy, also known as Diastasis Recti of the Abdominal Muscles (DRAM).

It’s quite normal to have your six-pack muscles stretch outwards in pregnancy, as your body is basically making room for a growing baby. If you are concerned, make sure you see a physiotherapist to get it checked out and cleared to do your desired sport!

If you have been cleared to pole, make sure you avoid activities that make your tummy bulge, also known as coning or doming. This is both in pole and everyday life. In everyday life avoid doing sit-ups, heavy lifting and straining on the toilet- so make sure you roll to the side to get out of bed, and get your fruits and vegies in so you aren’t constipated.

Pole tricks can be pretty heavy and tough on the body. Tricks like ayeshas, iron x, ANY press, even shoulder mounts and inverts can be straining and challenging depending on the person. Since you’ve been training before pregnancy, you may be able to do some of these things without any doming, but in some you might! So just keep an eye out for a tummy like this (pic) and choose something else to do instead.

Our advice? Listen to your body, do things that you love but aren’t making you dome. If you are concerned about your tummy separation, make sure you book in with The Pole Physio or your local women’s health physiotherapist for guidance on how to strengthen your deep abdominal core muscles and build tension at that midline (linea alba). For more information on how to strengthen your core, check out our recent blog found here!


7. Avoid leaking

Urinary leakage during exercise is a sign that your pelvic floor is not coping with the load. Make sure you get checked by a women’s health physiotherapist if you are experiencing leakage and then get the all clear. This might mean you do dance classes or stretch classes instead of trick classes. Be sure to modify any part of the dance or warm-ups that make you jump or brace yourself. You can try modifying it to a lower impact exercise. For example instead of jump squats, change the exercise to air squats. With all that said, the main take home message is: listen to your body and your medical professionals and give it what it needs!


Photo of Michelle 'Shimmy' late pregnancy

8. And finally... Don’t compare yourself to other pregnant mamas!

Don’t forget everyone is unique and individual. Each pregnancy experience is different, not only between other women, but even between your own pregnancies. Coupled with different pole dancing experiences, your pregnancy pole life will definitely look different to everyone elses’ So remember to not put pressure on yourself to be able to do things you were able to do before pregnancy and don’t compare yourself to any other past and present pregnant mamas. Just show up (when you can) and be ready to make modifications and have a great time.

We are all already in awe of you for being able to grow a tiny human, any other tricks and fancy dancing is a bonus in our eyes.

Monitoring during exercise

Bring a water bottle and have regular sips

Practice the ‘Talk test’- you should be able to hold a normal conversation

Heart right guide during pregnancy

You can also monitor your heart rate during your exercise. Use this as a rough guide to know what you should be aiming for when you are monitoring your intensity


Stop if you have any of the following symptoms (RANZCOG, 2020):

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Abdominal pain with or without nausea

  • Regular painful contractions

  • Amniotic fluid leakage

  • New shortness of breath before exerting yourself

  • Dizziness/faint/lightheadedness

  • Headache

  • Chest pain

  • Muscle weakness impacting your balance

  • Calf pain or swelling

What to expect when pole dancing


If you are still attending pole classes you might find that the pregnancy changes to your body mean things can be a little harder or you may have to make some modifications to what you do. Here are some things you can expect to change in your body during pregnancy:


Feeling heavy and puffy?

Fluid retention during pregnancy coupled with your growing bub and uterus can make you feel heavier and pole tricks that much harder. But, don’t be discouraged- you are GROWING a tiny human, so just do what you can and remember to keep having fun! You might also find that the changes to your cardiovascular system can make you more short of breath in your warm ups or dances. Remember to work at your own pace, rest when you can and ensure you can hold a conversation whilst training. If your usual classes become a little hard to attend or you’d like to supplement your pole training with more pregnancy safe strengthening, then hang tight for a special announcement at the end of this blog!! Eeep!


Ligament Laxity and Joint Pain

Considerable changes to your hormones occur to promote your pregnancy and the growth of your bub. However these changes can have an impact on your ligaments and muscles, making them a little more lax than usual and thus susceptible to reduced joint stability. As a result you may experience some pelvic joint pain, lower back pain and joint instability when dancing. Tricks like splits, wide lunges, straddles or anything that involves spreadies can lead to some pain or irritation to your pelvic or lower back joints. If this happens, make sure you see your physiotherapist and modify dance choreography to moves that keep your legs together.


Heels or no heels?

An increase in pelvic joint or lower back joint pain can often be more irritated by wearing heels. Be guided by your physio for this, but you might have to find some joy in rolling around in socks or bare feet instead. The increase in ligament laxity may also impact your ankle joints and therefore you may be a little more susceptible to rolling your ankle, especially in heels! So be careful and hold on to the pole or opt for the shorter heel or no shoe option.


As your centre of gravity shifts forward during pregnancy, your weight tends to shift from your midfoot towards your heels to compensate and help you maintain balance. When wearing heels, your weight shifts forwards to your forefoot instead. Coupled this with the weight of baby anteriorly, you are more susceptible to falling in heels when pregnant.

So, when wearing heels and dancing to complex choreography, make modifications to hold onto the pole or do floor work to reduce your risk of falls.


How to keep you happy and healthy

Photo of Charlotte Robertson during Pregnancy

While pregnancy may limit some movements in your sport, it shouldn’t stop you from doing it at all. Everyone is individual and unique, and what others can or can’t do during their pregnancy may be completely different to you. Here are some general rules that we’ve come up with to keep your mind and body happy


  1. Make sure you are not comparing yourself to other pregnant mamas pole dancing on social media! You are unique and every pregnancy and experience is different. Be sure to not put pressure on yourself to look or move a certain way.

  2. As a general rule of thumb, you should think about pole or exercise during pregnancy as a means to maintain your fitness and strength as opposed to improving strength or achieving trick goals.

  3. Be sensible and choose to participate in things that won’t put you at risk of injuring yourself and baby. Listen to your body and move when you can and rest when you need to.

  4. Be creative! If your body is not allowing you to do tricks, dance or do conditioning exercises instead! Find alternative ways for you to still get to your studio and move your body. Whether it's on or next to a pole, it will surely make you happier than not being at your favourite place.


Now for the drumroll.....


We are so thrilled to announce our collaboration with the team at PoleSphere to create their newest course: Pole Mamas: The Ultimate Course for Pregnancy, Postpartum and Pole. The course teaching team includes the Pole Physio’s very own Women’s Health Physiotherapist Julia Vo and Sports Physiotherapist Simone Muscat as well as Women’s Health Physiotherapist Phoebe Armfield, Flexersize Owner and extraordinaire Eley May, Sports Psychologist Emma Hall and Clinical Nutritionist Tris Alexandra.


In this course, we guide YOU, the pregnant mumma through pregnancy safe exercise with the aim to maintain pole strength & fitness during your journey to allow for a smooth & safe journey back to pole. This course is jam packed full of information to help you through your pregnancy. And in a world first, this program includes women's health physio approved progressive postnatal pole conditioning/dance classes to help you on your journey back to pole. It's absolutely everything a pole dancing mumma could wish for all in one place! Stay tuned to our website and socials because we will announce pre-sales shortly! Got a question about this program? Send us a DM via socials!

Wanting to work 1:1 with a Physiotherapist to stay active throughout your pregnancy & keep up your pole strength off the pole in anticipation for your return?


Online telehealth appointments can be booked with the Pole Physio via our ‘Book Online’ page that can be found here. Assessment and tailored rehabilitation are provided in accordance with best practice and evidence-based treatment to help you unleash your 'poletential'.

Until next time, train safe

The Pole Physio

x


References:

  1. Aune, D., Saugstad, O. D., Henriksen, T., & Tonstad, S. (2014). Physical activity and the risk of preeclampsia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Epidemiology, 25(3), 331-343. https://doi.org/10.1097/ede.0000000000000036

  2. Cai, C., Ruchat, S. M., Sivak, A., & Davenport, M. H. (2020). Prenatal Exercise and Cardiorespiratory Health and Fitness: A Meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 52(7), 1538-1548. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000002279

  3. Davenport, M. H., Marchand, A. A., Mottola, M. F., Poitras, V. J., Gray, C. E., Jaramillo Garcia, A., Barrowman, N., Sobierajski, F., James, M., Meah, V. L., Skow, R. J., Riske, L., Nuspl, M., Nagpal, T. S., Courbalay, A., Slater, L. G., Adamo, K. B., Davies, G. A., Barakat, R., & Ruchat, S. M. (2019). Exercise for the prevention and treatment of low back, pelvic girdle and lumbopelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, 53(2), 90-98. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099400

  4. Davenport, M. H., Ruchat, S. M., Sobierajski, F., Poitras, V. J., Gray, C. E., Yoo, C., Skow, R. J., Jaramillo Garcia, A., Barrowman, N., Meah, V. L., Nagpal, T. S., Riske, L., James, M., Nuspl, M., Weeks, A., Marchand, A. A., Slater, L. G., Adamo, K. B., Davies, G. A., Barakat, R., & Mottola, M. F. (2019). Impact of prenatal exercise on maternal harms, labour and delivery outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, 53(2), 99-107. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099821

  5. de Oliveria Melo, A. S., Silva, J. L., Tavares, J. S., Barros, V. O., Leite, D. F., & Amorim, M. M. (2012). Effect of a physical exercise program during pregnancy on uteroplacental and fetal blood flow and fetal growth: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol, 120(2 Pt 1), 302-310. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0b013e31825de592

  6. Díaz-Burrueco, J. R., Cano-Ibáñez, N., Martín-Peláez, S., Khan, K. S., & Amezcua-Prieto, C. (2021). Effects on the maternal-fetal health outcomes of various physical activity types in healthy pregnant women. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol, 262, 203-215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2021.05.030

  7. Dipietro, L., Evenson, K. R., Bloodgood, B., Sprow, K., Troiano, R. P., Piercy, K. L., Vaux-Bjerke, A., & Powell, K. E. (2019). Benefits of Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Postpartum: An Umbrella Review. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 51(6), 1292-1302. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001941

  8. Elliott-Sale, K. J., Barnett, C. T., & Sale, C. (2015). Exercise interventions for weight management during pregnancy and up to 1 year postpartum among normal weight, overweight and obese women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, 49(20), 1336-1342. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2014-093875

  9. Gavard, J. A., & Artal, R. (2008). Effect of exercise on pregnancy outcome. Clin Obstet Gynecol, 51(2), 467-480. https://doi.org/10.1097/GRF.0b013e31816feb1d

  10. Muktabhant, B., Lumbiganon, P., Ngamjarus, C., & Dowswell, T. (2012). Interventions for preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4(4), Cd007145. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007145.pub2

  11. Pelaez, M., Gonzalez-Cerron, S., Montejo, R., & Barakat, R. (2019). Protective Effect of Exercise in Pregnant Women Including Those Who Exceed Weight Gain Recommendations: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Mayo Clin Proc, 94(10), 1951-1959. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.050

  12. Price, B. B., Amini, S. B., & Kappeler, K. (2012). Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 44(12), 2263-2269. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318267ad67

  13. RANZCOG. (2020, March 2020). Exercise during pregnancy. https://ranzcog.edu.au/RANZCOG_SITE/media/RANZCOG-MEDIA/Women%27s Health/Statement and guidelines/Clinical-Obstetrics/Exercise-during-pregnancy-(C-Obs-62).pdf?ext=.pdf

  14. Ravanelli, N., Casasola, W., English, T., Edwards, K. M., & Jay, O. (2019). Heat stress and fetal risk. Environmental limits for exercise and passive heat stress during pregnancy: a systematic review with best evidence synthesis. Br J Sports Med, 53(13), 799-805. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-097914

  15. Wiebe, H. W., Boulé, N. G., Chari, R., & Davenport, M. H. (2015). The effect of supervised prenatal exercise on fetal growth: a meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol, 125(5), 1185-1194. https://doi.org/10.1097/aog.0000000000000801