Birth Ball for Pregnancy, Labor and Birth

Making Labor More Comfortable

Laboring Woman on Ball
Photo © Lane Oatey / Blue Jean Images/Getty Images

Have you heard people talking about using a birth ball? You might wonder what they are talking about!

Actually it is a standard physiotherapy ball used in physical therapy departments all over the world. Many physical therapists seem to be drawn to the labor and birth arena, and somehow someone got the idea of letting pregnant women sit on the ball, and eventually its use also expanded to include labor and birth.

Why a Birth Ball

These balls are great for relieving discomfort during pregnancy. It provides a firm, yet soft place to sit. It also forces good posture, allowing for decreased straining of your muscles. This is often one of the most relaxing places a pregnant person can sit.

"I thought it looked stupid," said one mother. "I can't believe I even got talked into trying it. But after watching my co-worker for weeks, I did eventually try it. I could believe the instant relief I felt sitting on it. I went out and got one to watch TV with. I even brought it with me to labor. The nurses laughed until they tried it. With my second baby - the hospital provided it."

Birth Ball Safety

You will want to make sure that you get a birthing ball that is designed to be sat on. You can check weight limits, though they are generally greater than 300 lbs. Some birthing balls, also say anti-burst. If you are worried about rolling, you can get some that have rings, or have sand in them.

If you can't find one, simply pour some sand into the hole before blowing it up to make it less likely to roll.

When moms are learning to squat the birth ball can help them achieve this without the need for a partner. Simply by placing the birth ball on the wall and then leaning with it against your shoulder blades you can learn to squat and gently ease into it, without fear of falling and no partner required!

Positions for the Birth Ball

For birth, the ball can be brought by the couple or the doula, or owned by the hospital or birth center. In a home birth setting the practitioner may have a birth ball or they can be purchased very inexpensively and work well as a play toy for the kids! My kids and I are constantly fighting over the ball. They refuse to believe it's related to my work.

You should be encouraged to cover the ball with a pad when sitting on it in labor. This is mainly for your comfort as a bare bottom (even if it's just the backs of your legs), sticking to the plastic can feel really awful when you peel off the ball. The pad can be a towel, blanket, or a sheet. It can also be a plastic backed pad called a chux pad in the hospital. This also helps ensure it soaks up any leaking amniotic fluid. (The balls are sterilized between patients in a hospital.)

Many women use birth ball in labor to sit on and then leaned over a stack of pillows on their bed. This allows them to sway their hips back and forth and yet lay down at the same time. Some women have spent many hours like this. It also gives room for the partner and doula to rub their back or provide other comfort measures..

It can be used in conjunction with fetal monitoring, and are great when you are experiencing back labor.

They will not only make your labor more comfortable, but have been shown to aid the turning of the baby due to the position mom is in on the ball. Some hospitals also use this in conjunction with light epidural anesthesia.

Peanut Ball

Another type of ball is the peanut ball. This is shaped like a peanut. There have been a few studies on this ball when used in labor with women who have epidural anesthesia. Women who use this ball to prop their legs in various positions had a lower cesarean rate.

Sources:

Fournier D, Feeney G, Mathieu ME. Outcomes of Exercise Training Following the Use of a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy and Delivery. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Jul;31(7):1941-1947. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001672.

Roth C, Dent SA, Parfitt SE, Hering SL, Bay RC. Randomized Controlled Trial of Use of the Peanut Ball During Labor. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2016 May-Jun;41(3):140-6. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000232.

Tussey CM, Botsios E, Gerkin RD, Kelly LA, Gamez J, Mensik J. Reducing Length of Labor and Cesarean Surgery Rate Using a Peanut Ball for Women Laboring With an Epidural. J Perinat Educ. 2015;24(1):16-24. doi: 10.1891/1058-1243.24.1.16.

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