Birthing Ball for Pregnancy, Labor and Birth

Making Labor More Comfortable

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

Birthing ball, you say, what the heck is that?!?

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 Birthing 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."

Birthing 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, thought 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 Birthing 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.)

I personally used my birth ball in labor to sit on and then leaned over a stack of pillows on my bed. This allowed me to sway my hips back and forth and yet lay down at the same time.

I spent many hours like this. It also gave room for my husband and doula to rub my back.

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.

If you have any doubts find a ball and sit on it. Your mind will be changed instantly!

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