Is it possible to perform on the flute while pregnant?
During the first trimester, flute players who do not suffer from morning sickness should have no problem performing in concerts, classes and other similar situations. However, it is possible that tiredness or light-headedness could set in, and therefore it is preferable to remain seated as much as possible. Performing in orchestras and bands is ideal, as the player is seated and has rests between bouts of playing.
During the second trimester these activities should still be possible, however, by the third trimester, some women may find that playing a full concert programme is too demanding, due to the tiredness that can arise from the breathing complications related to the pregnancy. Professional flute players might therefore decide to begin their maternity leave in the third trimester, or, in the case of orchestral players, to alternate with colleagues in order to lighten the load of playing. Advanced students should, albeit with some considerable effort, be able to participate in classes right up to the end of the pregnancy.
Pregnancy can offer unexpected surprises, and abnormal ultrasounds, blood pressure or any other test result could lead to a doctor’s recommendation to rest. For this reason, it is essential that the pregnant flute player communicates her situation to her employer, tutor and colleagues as early as possible, so that a substitute can be named in case of emergency.
How can a flute player prepare for a performance while pregnant?
The key to preparing a good performance is to keep the amount of stress to a minimum. A soloist should choose to perform repertoire she already knows well, while orchestral players should start preparing their parts around two months earlier, in order to pace themselves. Students preparing new pieces should try not to choose anything over-ambitious, and should begin preparing for each class at least a month in advance.
Due to breathing complications, flute repertoire to avoid during pregnancy includes:
- Sonatas or concertos lasting over twenty minutes
- Single movements lasting over six minutes
- Unaccompanied pieces
How soon after the birth will it be possible to perform again?
Each woman is different, however a healthy flute player who gives birth vaginally, should be able to start playing the flute again gently within ten days of the birth. Of course, this depends on having someone on hand to look after the baby while the mother plays. To begin with, the new mother might only play for half an hour a day, gradually increasing as she regains her strength.
After the birth, the mother will almost certainly have some uncomfortable stitches and possibly back and neck pains due to the effort of the birth or to an epidural anesthetic. In addition, the flute player will need to relocate her diaphragm and carry out careful practice of sustained notes and intonation in order to get back into shape.
Being able to perform therefore depends entirely on having completed a thorough preparation of the programme before the birth. In this case, with considerable effort, the mother should be able to perform her programme around three weeks after the birth, when the majority of her aches and pains have gone.
By a month and a half after the birth, the mother should be able to perform comfortably again. Due to the difficulty in calculating an exact delivery date, concerts engagements should ideally be planned for around two months after the expected delivery date. Of course, such engagements also depend on the status of the mother’s maternity leave.
The breast-feeding mother will need to carefully consider the engagements she undertakes, planning around the needs of her baby and the availability of someone who can look after the baby, bring him to the mother for his feeds or administer a bottle of expressed milk.
Most new mothers will not have time to practise seriously for several months, however, with the right preparation before the birth and with good support from a partner, family and friends, it is possible to start performing again very quickly.