Despite what the baby magazines and media would have you believe, having the baby bump decorated during pregnancy is not a new thing, it is an ancient tradition. It was believed that participating in the soothing and calming experience of having the bump decorated during the last few months of the pregnancy would lead to an easy delivery and a healthy child. Traditional belly art involves the use of henna, a rich red dye that has been used in the application of body art for over nine thousand years.
It is believed that the application of henna during the last trimester of the pregnancy not only protects and blesses the mother to be, but also protects the child from any evil spirits of malevolent entities that may be present at the time of the birth. The colour of the dye and the traditional patterns used were thought to guard against the evil eye – ill will or cursing from another person on the well being and future life of the baby, and would protect both mother and child through the exhausting trials of labour and birth.
Henna is still being used by women to decorate their baby bumps, but rather than offering a blessing or asking for protection these days, they are instead celebrating their changing and blossoming bodies. Belly art has even become part of some pre baby pampering sessions and is often included as an activity at baby showers, with the photographs of the design being included in baby’s photo album.
Colourful, water based body paint is replacing the traditional henna in a lot of places, with no limit being placed on the kind of designs that can be applied to the burgeoning bump. From representations of the earth, to an image of an oven complete with a little bun in the window, all are commonplace. Having your pregnant belly painted can even be part of a Halloween costume with the shape of the baby bump being the perfect shape and size for a Halloween pumpkin!
Relax and Enjoy
Being able to put your feet up and relax as your blooming belly is painted is wonderful. If henna is being used the mother can enjoy the soothing experience of having a lightly scented and deliciously cooling paste applied directly onto the skin, and with the design remaining in place for anywhere between 7-10 days and unlike body paint it is not going to disappear the first time you feel the need of a warm bath to sooth your back pain.
Of course with body paint you have more colour potions available, but bear in mind that the more intricate a design that you chose the more likely it is to have little ‘errors’ where baby has moved or struck out a foot beneath the artists hand!
Natural henna is perfectly safe for use during the last trimester of pregnancy and the artist may mix it with a little lavender oil or other natural ingredient to make it easier to apply to the skin. However you should check with your henna artist to ensure that they do not use any chemicals in their mix such as hair dyes in order to achieve an almost black colouration, as this is neither safe nor legal. The design will need between 4-8 hours to soak in and fix in place and over the course of two days the colour of the design should deepen from a burnt orange to a rich brown.
For those using body paints it is important to let the artist know if you have ever had any kind of skin allergy or reaction to anything being placed on your skin, as some colours may cause more irritation than others due to the nature of their ingredients. You should also be aware that if you are ticklish you are going to find this whole experience very trying!
Body casting kits are available to buy on a do it yourself basis, but there are also agencies out there that will take a cast for you and have it finished and mounted into a real piece of art, including any extra decoration or painted designs that you may want to include.
The kits are available in either fibreglass or plaster and once set and sanded can be decorated however you wish. A belly cast is a permanent reminder of your pregnant shape, and whilst most women would want the cast done when there bump is at its largest, in the last few weeks of the pregnancy, it makes more sense and is much safer to have the cast made during the eighth month, as the mother to be is going to be a little more comfortable than during the final stages when she will probably be finding it difficult to get comfortable in any position.