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Yes, you can play guitar while pregnant: Stephanie Bradley reflects on her journey shredding for two

Stephanie Bradley
(Image credit: Stephanie Bradley)

Heavy metal! Shred guitar! Amps turned up to 11! Pregnant women! Wait… what? You don’t normally think of pregnant women playing guitar, but why not? Recently my husband and I decided that we wanted to expand our family, and I truthfully didn’t know what to expect for my guitar playing. 

Would I be able to attend the Paul Gilbert and John Petrucci guitar camps that I was scheduled to teach at? Would I be able to film videos? Would companies who endorse me still care about working with me? I knew I couldn’t be the first woman to be pregnant while playing guitar, but I really hadn’t seen any others do it, so it felt like I was entering uncharted territory. Regardless, we wanted to have a baby, and I accepted doing so could mean putting anything guitar-related on hold.

When I announced my pregnancy on social media, I was greeted with an abundance of positivity, for which I am still very thankful to have received. Of course, there were negative comments, some even in jest, which further highlighted my increasing insecurities. Like I said, this was new territory for me, so, naturally, I took to Google – an activity that resulted in me seeing stories about every worst case scenario. 

I had no idea what my energy level would be like, or if I could even still play guitar, when I would start to show, and nothing is more annoying then some unsolicited advice and negativity from people that don’t know you. Comments like, “How are you going to play with a belly?” or, “Good luck having any time to practice!” or even, “You’re going to hurt the baby playing guitar with him in there!” all made me even more nervous than I already was.

Of course, being pregnant during a global pandemic was an experience all of its own, but it also gave me more isolated time that I otherwise wouldn't have had. All of the extra time at home without a busy travel schedule allowed me to work even harder before and during my pregnancy to be as healthy as I could possibly be. Working out, eating well, and going on walks with my husband and dog became my everyday routine. 

These things (mixed with good luck) made my pregnancy feel pretty smooth in the grand scheme of things. Of course, I still had symptoms and was tired, but I was able to play guitar most days, keep working out (a modified pregnancy-safe workout) and continue working with my husband on our own digital marketing company, 9/9, which works with a wide array of celebrity artists and companies. 

Stephanie Bradley

(Image credit: Stephanie Bradley)

Also, I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to play guitar with a belly (pregnant or not), so I decided to focus on what I could control, not what I couldn't. I can't control how others perceive me or the fact that I was pregnant, but I could control how I felt and what I did during my pregnancy.

The truth is, I honestly loved playing guitar while pregnant. Playing with our child growing in my belly was a very cool experience. I understand it’s somewhat comical to see my guitar move further away from my body each week, but it was also amazing. There was a tiny human in there! 

And just for the record, I do not need my son to play guitar or even be into music, it’s just something I love and relate to and felt that l could share. It’s completely up to him if he wants to pursue that later in life. We may have already purchased him his first guitar (a 1966 short-scale Fender Mustang), but I digress…

Playing guitar to my baby was one of my favorite things to do during my pregnancy. It was something I could still do while pregnant that helped me bond with him. When he started kicking, feeling him react to things like me playing guitar (whether it was telling me to be quiet or keep going) was very surreal. 

I also really loved using Rick Beato’s Nuryl app and playing him at least 30 minutes of music a day through belly headphones, singing and playing to him in the womb. I even ended up writing him a lullaby… listen to some and you’ll see why! Most of the existing ones are actually pretty dark and not what I wanted to sing to my baby. 

To my own surprise, I actually continued to play guitar up until I gave birth and even filmed a video for Guitar World and ESP at eight months pregnant! For me, this was such a huge accomplishment. I had spent so many months worrying about when I would be too big to play, if anyone wanted to even see a VERY pregnant girl playing guitar, and had made my own predictions on when I would need to stop working/filming/playing. 

For me to still be able to film that far along was something I truly didn’t expect. I also really appreciate ESP and Guitar World for not treating me any differently and never even mentioning that I was pregnant. Having people treat you like you can’t do things just because you’re growing a baby was one of my biggest pet peeves. At this point, my son was actually so big and strong that, while filming, one of his kicks physically moved the guitar!

Of course some days were harder than others, but that’s life even when you aren’t pregnant, and when there isn’t a global pandemic unfolding around you. But now that I’m sitting here with our now almost two-month-old son, it all feels like it happened in the blink of an eye. 

I am so thankful my husband, friends and even strangers on social media encouraged and supported me throughout this journey, and I am so thankful to now have a happy, healthy baby. I’m so glad that my husband and I followed our hearts and took this step not knowing what it would mean.

Stephanie Bradley

(Image credit: Stephanie Bradley)

It’s also amazing to look at our son now while playing him the same high-information classical music from the Nuryl playlist that he heard for months in the womb and seeing his reaction! He definitely looks more engaged when it comes on, but I have to be honest, he prefers more of the rock/shred music that I also played with him in my belly! His eyes get a little bigger when Van Halen comes on… Sorry, Dave Brubeck. 

I am not saying that what I did was something miraculous, but I do want anyone out there who plays guitar and is contemplating becoming pregnant to know that it’s totally normal and it’s going to be great! So, thank you Samuel Riff Bradley for making me a mom, and I promise we won’t force you to play guitar… yet.