Birthing balls are awesome! They are easy to find, inexpensive and an invaluable comfort tool to use during your pregnancy, birth and post partum. In this article you’ll learn what a birthing ball is, where to get one, and how to use a birthing ball to help you have a more comfortable pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.
What is a birthing ball?
It is basically a large exercise ball, like the kind they use for physical therapy. They can be called Exercise Balls, Pregnancy Exercise Balls, Yoga Balls, or Birth Balls. But the names not as important as the benefits are! These balls have been discovered by the birthing world and have become a known as a Mommas greatest helper.
The Benefits of Using a Birth Ball
During early pregnancy your birthing ball is used as an exercise ball to prepare and strengthen your body to carry your baby more comfortably during your pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses your birth ball is used to create familiarity with birth positions and movements and to begin preparing your body for birth.
And in late pregnancy during the final stretch when space is getting tight and comfort is hard to find, your birth ball offers much needed relief from back and hip strain, and is used to line your baby up in the optimal fetal positioning.
During labor your birthing ball assists you into beneficial positions that make birth easier and less painful, it helps to open and create space in the pelvis for your baby to come down, provides great support for the Momma and helps her to conserve her energy. After your baby is here your birthing ball is a great tool to sooth your baby to sleep and to help you to get back into shape.
Purchasing a Birth Ball
You can get one in the sporting good section of most stores; they are easily found at fitness stores, and can even be purchased on line. They cost anywhere from $8.00 up to $50.00. I got the cheapest one and it worked great! They’re made out of vinyl and you pump them up with an air pump or a bike pump.
Choosing the Right Ball for You
Make sure to get the right size for you. An average woman 5’5″ is usually comfortable with a 65cm ball. If you are much shorter you should get a smaller 55 cm size or if you’re much taller you’d get the larger size. Check to make sure it’s the right fit for you by sitting directly on top, feet flat on the floor. Your legs should be at a 90 degree angle, either even with or lower than your hips. You should have someone support you until you get comfortable using the ball.
Make sure you get one with at least a 250-300lbs weight capacity or more depending on how much you already weigh, and remember that your weight will increase as your pregnancy progresses. Make sure that you get one that deflates slowly so that if it gets a hole you won’t fall on your butt.
How to Use Your Birth Ball to Have a Comfortable Pregnancy
Your Birthing Ball is your faithful exercise partner in preparing your body for pregnancy and birth.
Starting early on in pregnancy you can use your pregnancy exercise ball to do gentle exercises that encourage flexibility and strength, especially in your core muscles. Building a strong core helps to support your baby, takes the pressure off of your back, and allows you to carry your baby more comfortably.
Core strengthening on the exercise ball for early pregnancy:
Plank and Advanced Plank
Lie on the ball on your stomach, with your feet touching the floor behind the ball. Lean forward until you touch the floor with your hands.
Walk your hands away from the ball until you feel the ball reach your upper thighs (A). Keep your shoulders directly above your hands.
Tighten your abdominal muscles.
When you’re comfortable with the plank (A), try the advanced plank:
From position (A)push your body weight forward until your shoulders are in front of your hands and the ball is beneath your shins (B). Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the start position and repeat.
Exercises on the Birthing Ball for a Comfortable Pregnancy and Birth Preparation:
As your Pregnancy progresses and your hips are adjusting wide to make room for your baby you can use the exercise ball to open and increase the flexibility in your hips which helps to minimize resistance and allows them to expand easier decreasing a lot of the discomfort that can be felt in your hips and lower back.
Exercise #1 Rocking (Side to Side):
Sit on the ball with hips and legs spread wide to support you and then begin rocking from side to side.
Exercise #2 Rocking (Forward and Back):
Sit on the ball with hips and legs spread wide to support you and then begin rocking forward and backward
This next exercise is the best one you can do for yourself and your baby. Even if you don’t learn any other exercises this one’s a must! It is the act of spiraling, a movement that encourages you to tune into and connect with the rhythms and energy field of your body and the birth. The spiral is the most generative form of subtle energy. When its coil is unwound the stored energy is released. Become comfortable with this movement during your pregnancy and use it in your birth to spiral the energy of the contractions down through your body instead of allowing the pressure to concentrate in your stomach. It also opens your pelvis, creates space and moves your baby right down to your cervix.
Spirals on the Birthing Ball:
Sit on the ball with legs spread wide to support you and begin to spiral your hips, do big circles, then switch directions.
During the final months the birth ball is a saving grace for an achy body. Just by simply draping yourself over it greatly relieves the stress on your body and eases aches and pains in your back and hips.
Relaxation and Comfort Positions on the Birthing Ball:
Draping Over the Ball:
Sit on your knees, with your arms in front of you lie stomach down on the ball. In this position you can just relax there, or you can rock your torso back and forth or side to side.
Draping Over the Ball and Wagging your Tail:
Draped over the ball and keeping your torso still, you may sway your hips side to side, and begin to spiral making circle movements with your hips.
How to Use Your Birthing Ball to position Your Baby for Birth
During the final months you have to pay very special attention to what position you are sitting in. Your baby is moving around trying to get into the right position for birth. To Decrease the Risk of your baby turning into the breach position and to encourage proper positioning it is important to assume straight postures where your knees are level or lower than your hips. Sitting on the birthing ball naturally encourages that position.
How to Use Your Birthing Ball to Have an Easier More Comfortable Labor
Using the birthing ball during labor (especially early labor) allows you to use comfortable and purposeful upright positions. It increases freedom of movement, eases pain, opens pelvis, encourages dilating and effacing, and brings the baby down upon the cervix.
How to Use Your Birthing Ball during Birth:
You may sit on the ball and with your birth partner standing or sitting in a chair in front of you for added support you can do the rocking and spiraling, or you may do any of the movements draped over the ball as well. You may also sit on the ball and rest your head on the couch, bed or your partners lap and continue the rocking movements.
How to Use Your Birth Ball Even after Your Baby’s Born
The birthing ball is a great tool to help to sooth and comfort your baby beautifully. They love it when you sit on the birthing ball and gently bounce them in your arms, it’s familiar to the movement they are used to experiencing in the womb. It works wonders, like the rocking chair and it’s comfortable for you too. Also your birthing ball can turn back into an exercise ball to help tone your muscles after birth.