Heard the buzz about birthing balls but not sure if they’re for you? We’ll take you through the details of why and how to use one.
A birthing ball can be a great addition to your pregnancy kit.
Its main job? To help ease pain and discomfort during pregnancy, labor, and even in the postpartum phase.
They can also be a great addition to your pregnancy workout plan.
You may have heard it called a pregnancy ball, labor ball, or birth ball.
There’s also our personal favorite (both for its name and its unique function), the peanut ball.
Sound like something you want to explore? Let’s dive in.
In this article: 📝
- So what exactly is a birthing ball?
- Do birthing balls work?
- When should you start using a birthing ball?
- Does a birthing ball help start labor?
- Birthing ball exercises during pregnancy
- Birthing ball positions during labor
So what exactly is a birthing ball?
A birthing ball is either round or peanut-shaped (see, we snuck it in there again).
Both shapes help keep your pelvis open and flexible and provide support when you need it.
Most popular options are made out of a soft plastic vinyl and are specially designed not to slip or pop.
The round ones look like the big exercise balls you might find in a yoga or Pilates studio.
One of the big advantages of a round yoga ball is that it can help keep you in an upright position during labor.
Research suggests this can significantly reduce pain and may even help your baby get into a better position for birth, meaning they might make a swifter exit.
But if sitting upright doesn’t feel right or isn’t possible for you, there are other options.
And here’s where the peanut ball may help.
Yep, it does indeed look like a giant inflated peanut.
Their big plus? You can use the peanut ball while lying down.
They’re specifically designed to help in the first and second stages of labor, during the dilation and pushing phases.
Do birthing balls work?
There are many times during pregnancy and labor when a birthing ball can be just what you need.
One of the key reasons to use a birthing ball during pregnancy is to help reduce lower back pain — which happens in somewhere around 70% of pregnancies.
In this study of women who were between 20 and 22 weeks pregnant, a 12-week stability ball exercise program helped to reduce back pain and boost wellbeing.
So does that mean you have to enroll in an exercise program to get the full benefits? Nope! Simply sitting on your ball is also very beneficial.
As your belly expands, finding a comfortable seat can become more challenging.
Sitting on a birthing ball rather than a chair can help you find a comfortable position and make getting up and down that much easier.
Birthing balls can have a positive effect on labor, from the first contraction to the final push.
This study showed that birthing balls can help labor progress, manage pain and anxiety, and improve the birthing experience.
And this study showed, birthing balls may prevent emergency c-sections (though this study wasn’t so sure).
In the postpartum phase
Here’s one surprising thing your newborn might love: being gently bounced on the birthing ball.
Hold them close or wear them in a carrier, making sure their head is fully supported, and do a very gentle bounce while sitting on the ball to help calm them and even encourage them to fall asleep.
During this early postpartum time, sometimes called the fourth trimester, your pregnancy ball can also be a great way to gently stretch your muscles and help support your body as you recover.
When should you start using a birthing ball?
You can start using a birthing ball as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, or even while you’re TTC.
If you’re looking to use your ball to relieve lower back pain, you’ll probably want to start using your ball somewhere between the fifth and seventh month.
But back pain can also start before then, so do what’s best for you.
You can also start using the ball in your third trimester to gently warm yourself up for labor.
Starting early can help you find the positions you like best and also encourage baby to get into a good position for the start of labor.
Does a birthing ball help start labor?
So we know a birthing ball can help during labor, but can it actually help start it?
Sorry, mama. There is no evidence to suggest this.
As Dr. Elaine Duryea from the UTSW’s Obstetrics and Gynecology department explains, while exercise is beneficial during pregnancy, there’s no exercise that has been shown to bring on labor.
Birthing ball exercises during pregnancy
While using a birthing ball is considered safe during pregnancy, it’s always important to check in with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan.
They might have particular dos and don’ts that apply to your specific situation.
And always listen to your body. If something hurts, stop.
Also, so that you don’t slip around too much, it’s a good idea to use your ball on carpeted floors.
And avoid socks, if possible.
When choosing your ball, take your height into consideration. If you’re over 5’9”, choose a larger ball measuring about 75 cm.
Here are some positions to try:
- The Simple Sit: Sit on your ball with your feet hip-width apart and your knees lower than your hips. There you have it — your new chair!
- Rock out: While sitting on your ball, move your hips from side to side and back to front to increase flexibility.
- To infinity and beyond: While sitting on your ball, move your hips in an infinity or figure 8 shape.
- Circle the territory: Move your hips in a circular motion while sitting on the ball. Try going clockwise, then counter-clockwise.
- Bow to the ball: Kneel on the ground with the ball in front of you. With your knees apart, lean forward with your arms and head on the ball. Now, gently rock your lower body frontwards and backward.
- Lifting limbs: Sitting on your ball, raise your arms in the air and bring them down. Then raise one leg at a time, hold, and then release. Switch sides.
- Squat! Standing up straight, rotate your feet out to the sides. Put your hands on the ball to balance you. Once you have your balance, go down into a squat position with your back upright. You can also try a wall squat where you lean against the ball, with the ball against the wall. Open your legs and move into a gentle squat.
Birthing ball positions during labor
Positions are based on the type of birthing ball you’re using.
Here are some options for each:
Round birthing ball
If you are sitting on your ball, it can help to keep things loose by moving your hips forward and backward and from side to side.
Another option is to lean on your ball from either a kneeling or standing position.
If you choose the standing version, place your ball on higher ground.
You can also choose to put your ball on a bed and lean over it that way.
When it comes to the peanut ball, you have two options — sitting or lying on your side.
The huge advantage that a peanut ball offers is that it can provide the benefits of a birthing ball, but you can use it while lying in bed, which can be especially useful if you have an [epidural]9https://www.peanut-app.io/posts/2hwj-j36).
When lying on your side, you can hug the ball with your legs, or place it under one leg.
That means your legs can stay open, which helps your pelvis stay open.
So there you have it! If you’d like to exchange tips, head over to Peanut to connect with other mamas-to-be.
It’s just better when we do this together.
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A Guide to the Best Types of Postpartum Massage
Your Complete Guide to Pregnancy Workouts
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