I wouldn’t want to go through labour without a birth ball! Birth balls can quickly become your best friend when you need comfort, support or just something to lean on, helping to make labour less stressful.
But the benefits of a birth ball come into play long before labour starts. During pregnancy you can trade your chair for a birth ball when sitting in front of the computer, watching TV or at the table.
Using one can help strengthen your lower back while supporting your pelvis and keeping it symmetrical. Make sure you sit on the ball so your feet are flat and apart, making a tripod with the centre of the ball. The ball should be firm and big enough so that your hips are equal or higher than your knees. Make sure you have a support beside you – a table or chair – it’s not a good time to lose your balance and slide across the floor!
It’s not recommended to bounce on your ball until full term as this can cause baby’s head to press on your cervix and start labour. If your waters have broken and there are no contractions, gentle circles can help get baby’s head on the cervix to get them started. Try to keep the circles nice and smooth and regular – maybe try doing them to music! I suggest keeping it up for 20 minutes and change directions periodically.
As early labour progresses into active labour you might want to kneel or lean forward onto the ball. The ball acts as a mobile support for your upper body and this position enables you to rock forward and back, side to side or do gentle circles during contractions. It’s a surprisingly soothing motion and takes the strain off your wrists when you are in a hands and knees position.
Spinningbabies.com is one of my favourite sites for tips and advice to get the baby into the best position for birth.
They suggest using a birth ball to help a labouring mother who finds she is unable to stand.
The mother sits on the birthing bed and bends her knees and touches the soles of her feet together. The birth ball is placed in the space between her knees and she leans forward to hug the ball. The foot of the birthing bed can be lowered a little to make this more comfortable. With a support person each side to take the weight and prevent her falling, she rocks side to side. This vigorous exercise shifts the asynclitic (where the head is tipped as if listening) or posterior baby lower through the pelvis. It also helps the baby to descend if the angle of the head is making it difficult.
One woman I helped as a doula wanted to sit on the ball while she pushed. She didn’t want to be in bed or stand or sit on a birthing stool. Her midwife was a little concerned about the baby’s shoulders becoming stuck, as had happened in a previous birth, but when the time came for the baby to emerge, the mother just angled her pelvis forward while I held her from behind and the baby slipped into the midwife’s hands. I realize now that she did a posterior pelvic tilt when flipping her hips towards the midwife which is a nice ‘shoulder-release’ position!
The picture below shows a great use of your ball in the final stages. You are supported, your body can move, your support person can massage your back and you are in a good position for baby to emerge.
And the benefits don’t stop after your baby arrives! Birth balls are great for gentle postnatal exercise routines and to sit on while soothing a crying baby. Just remember to have support close by and watch your balance.
My “baby” is now a big grown up girl of 12 but I still use my birth ball on a daily basis! I find it is great to sit on when brushing my hair and applying my makeup and I often choose it over a traditional chair to rest my legs for a while. Why not give one a try?! sit on when brushing my hair and applying my makeup and I often choose it over a traditional chair to rest my legs for a while. Why not give one a try?!