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Photo Series Captures Pregnant Acrobat Still Flying High

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer
August 8, 2014

Photo by Rachael Shane Photography

A very pregnant New York City trapeze artist has become a bit of an inspiring sideshow at the circus institute where she teaches — by continuing her high-flying antics through her eighth month of pregnancy, and having the professional portraits to prove it.

“We did [the photos] because I wanted maternity pictures that weren’t your standard maternity pictures,” Queens resident Michelle Arvin, co-owner of the circus training facility Circus Warehouse, told the New York Daily News. Yahoo Health could not reach Arvin for comment on Friday, as she had gone into labor almost two weeks past her July 26 due date, according to her friend Rachael Shane, the photographer who took the pictures.

“She’s very strong and in touch with her body and the happiest pregnant woman I’ve ever seen,” Shane told Yahoo Health. “She’s an acrobat, and she was always in the air, and I know it sounds insane but it made sense that of course she would still be flying at eight months pregnant.”

Photo by Rachael Shane Photography

Arvin told the “Today" show that she only had to alter her normal trapeze routine slightly as her belly grew. “Going upside down is totally fine,” she said. “That’s one of the things I can still do.” She also noted that the midwives assisting with her home birth said she could keep up her routine as long as it felt good.

It’s still too soon to gauge public reaction to the images. But past viral photos of heavily pregnant women in unexpected positions — including the Chicago marathoner, the L.A. mom who lifted weights as part of her CrossFit workouts, and the ballet dancer who was still striking arabesques at nine months pregnant — brought out the critics.

According to the exercise guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), keeping active throughout a pregnancy can have many health benefits, including increased energy and endurance, better sleep, and the possible prevention or treatment of gestational diabetes. However, the guidelines warn against activities that bring with them “a high risk of falling, such as gymnastics, water skiing, or horseback riding,” as well as contact sports. Recommended activities include walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics and, “if you were a runner before you became pregnant,” running.

But when Dr. Jill Hechtman, director of Tampa Obstetrics in Florida, saw the photos of Arvin, she was “a little shocked,” she told Yahoo Health. “What she’s doing is not necessarily exercise. She’s putting herself at risk because she could fall or get bumped by someone else.” By getting jostled, Hechtman said, she could have risked having a placental abruption, which causes the placenta to separate from the uterine wall. “She probably was a terrific trapeze artist before, but now she has to really overcompensate because of the differences in her weight distribution and balance.”

But Arvin seemed unfazed, and also seemed to be expecting to give birth to someone as equally daring as mom. “Everybody’s really excited about the newest acrobat at Circus Warehouse,” she said.