7 Ways to Use a Tennis Ball for Labor Massage

Quick Comfort from a Labor Support Relic

Tennis ball on ground, close-up, ground view
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When I was first pregnant in the 1990s, the ubiquitous pregnancy and labor pain relief object was a tennis ball. In fact, thinking back, I can’t think of any other tools that our original childbirth educator talked about for helping with pain. (She did cover movement, relaxation, etc., just not “stuff.”)

While over the last many years, the balls have certainly gotten bigger, about 60 cms bigger, and the number of tools available to help comfort someone in labor or in pregnancy has grown immensely, there is still a lot of room for the good old tennis ball. Here is my rundown on things you can do with a tennis ball to help you ease the pain of labor or simple pregnancy aches and pains:

1. Partner Massage Tool

Yes, let’s start with the obvious and old trusted standby – the labor massage tool. Take any tennis ball and hold it in your hand and use it to massage the offending part. It works well on the back as well as larger muscle groups like the thighs. It can help those who have fingers that tire quickly as well as those who feel self-conscious about their massage abilities.

2. Self Massage

Take your tennis ball and use it on yourself. While it’s obvious how to rub it on your leg, you may not have thought of placing the ball on the wall and pressing your back into it. You can use this for simply pressing into it for tight muscles or you can move your body around to give yourself a massage.

3. Press Your Hands

Use the tennis balls between your hands. Press together and roll. This can be a great way to help you focus and can be done in nearly any labor position. Some moms say that the feel was what comforted them, others say the rhythm. My mantra? Whatever works!

4. Roll Your Foot

Nasty foot cramps? Stand, while holding on to someone or something, on the ball with one foot. (The other foot should be on the ground.) Roll your foot around over the ball to relax all the tight spots. When you are ready, switch feet!

5. Use the Whole Pack

One of my favorite tricks for back pain in labor is to use the entire can of tennis balls, unopened. So when you get it, don’t pop the top, keep it sealed. This gives you a longer surface with just enough give to be very comfortable. It also hits more of the painful area at once, which is something moms are very thankful for in labor.

6. Use a Knee Hi

Grab a cheap box of knee his and place one, two or three tennis balls in the knee high. Tie the end to keep the tennis ball(s) in place. You can then use this to massage directly on the skin, without the roughness of the tennis ball. It also allows you to dictate how many tennis balls you use. This might also be helpful for the person massaging as well as the mom.

7. Scalp Massage

You can use a tennis ball as a scalp massager. Have someone simply roll the ball around your head, usually where you have hair, but it can feel nice on the back of the neck as well. I would recommend that you remove any pony tail holders or barrettes that may be in your hair - that might hurt!

Tennis balls can be found nearly anywhere. I really like to get mine at the pet shop. The reason is that you can find them in many sizes. For example, I like the smaller balls to use on my feet sometimes. They also have larger balls. These are inexpensive, helpful and don’t take up a lot of room in your hospital bag.

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