The Birth Ball
One of the most popular items used in the labor room today is the birth ball. It is also often called an exercise ball or a yoga ball. You’ve likely seen them at the gym, on TV, or at the store. The birth ball is a very inexpensive, durable, and effective alternative to pain relief medications.
The birth ball has many benefits before, during, and after childbirth.
- Improves posture by encouraging forward leaning. Sitting in a soft chair or couch is very bad for our posture. We naturally roll back and sit on our sacrum rather than on our ischium bones. This can cause the baby to not be in the best position for labor and can lead to a longer, more painful labor.
- Aligns the spine. This can relieve back pain, improve constipation, and increases blood flow to the pelvis.
- Helps the baby rotate into position.
- Strengthens the core.
- Improves balance,
- A more comfortable “chair.”
- Opens the pelvis by up to 30% allowing the baby more room to descend and rotate into position.
- Improves blood circulation to the pelvic area. This will increase the effectiveness of your contractions, encourage the flexibility of the perineum lessening the risk of tears, and improves oxygenation to the baby reducing the chance of the baby becoming distressed.
- Encourages baby into position thus speeding up labor and decreasing the chance of intervention.
- Allows mother to be upright in order to use gravity to encourage the baby to descend and increase the production of oxytocin.
- Provides counter-pressure to the perineum.
- Facilitates movement that can help relieve pain.
- Helps you to relax your trunk and pelvic floor with will improve hormone production, opens the pelvis, and protects the perineum.
- By leaning over the ball, you can help you baby to rotate out of a posterior position which causes back pain and will allow you to rest.
- Improves self-efficacy and pain relief .
- Great for core exercises to get back into shape.
- Very helpful in soothing baby by gently bouncing on the ball with baby.
- Can be a more comfortable “chair” for the perineum.
How to use the ball
Please check with your caregiver before performing any exercises.
When using the ball, always remember to steady the ball with your hands before sitting down. You may consider using the ball with bare feet for extra traction. If you don’t want to go barefoot, then make sure you use socks or shoes that have no-slip traction on the soles. Always ask or accept assistance when sitting or rising from the ball.When sitting, keep your feet in front of the ball, about two feet apart. Make sure the ball is never near anything sharp and keep it away from heat over 80º. When using the ball in the hospital, you may want to put a sheet or towel down first to keep the ball clean. Clean the ball with soap and water.
There are many exercises you can do with a birth/exercise ball. They are great for core exercises like crunches. Using free weights while balancing on a ball can improve balance and lying on your back will take the place of using a bench while strengthening your leg and core muscles. Doing squats while leaning against the ball pressed against a wall will support your back, give you more stability, and make it a smoother motion. Pinterest is a great place to find many more helpful ideas for exercises using a ball.
- Sitting on the ball allows gravity to help the baby descend, encourages movement to relieve pain and open the pelvis, and offers counter-pressure to the perineum.
- Using it to assist in squatting. You can place the ball against the wall and squat with your back pressing against the ball. Also, dad can sit on the ball while supporting you in a squat.
- Kneeling over the ball encourages a posterior baby to rotate into a more optimum position. It also is a great position for receiving back massage and allow you to rest and possibly sleep for a few minutes.
- Standing while leaning over the ball that is on the bed, allows gravity to be used while letting you rest and stretch your back.
- A special ball called a peanut ball, is great for use in the bed. Whether the mother is restricted to the bed for a medical reason, she has received an epidural, or would just like to rest in the bed a while, the peanut ball will help keep the pelvis open. It can be used in a semi-erect, recumbent, or side-lying position.
Purchasing a ball
- Correct size
- Up to 5′ 5″ = 55 cm
- Up to 5′ 9″ = 65 cm
- Over 5′ 9″ = 75 cm
- Supports your weight
- Make sure it comes with a hand pump or purchase one.
- You may want to consider purchasing or making your own ball cover.
I recommend all my clients purchase and use a birth ball months before they go into labor. They are great for improving your posture, spinal alignment, opening the pelvis, and relaxing your muscles before, during, and long after you deliver your baby. Even dad will enjoy using the ball. Since they are so affordable and so beneficial, you should get one today.
If you are in the Denton, TX area and are interested in hiring a doula for your birth experience, contact me today to schedule a free consultation. If you are interested in learning about more comfort measures in labor, check out myComfort Measures page.