Yoga ball, balance ball, fitness ball, stability ball, birth ball -- whatever you call it, a yoga ball (large, sturdy, inflatable ball ranging in diameter from 55cm - 75cm) can be a helpful tool for comfort, relaxation, and positioning during labor. It also is a wonderful tool used throughout your pregnancy for comfort in sitting, to aid in stretching, and for strengthening exercises.
If you would like the option to use a yoga ball during labor, first check with your place of birth to see if they have yoga balls available for your use. Or, if you have a doula, she may routinely carry a yoga ball with her to births. If neither of those options are available, you will need to buy a ball and bring it with you to your place of birth. For easier carrying, you can wrap a sheet around it and knot it, or purchase a yoga ball cover.
Buying a Yoga Ball for Labor
A yoga ball can be purchased at nearly any store where fitness supplies are sold or online. They range in price from $12 - $25. When purchasing a ball, you will need to choose the diameter that works best for your height. For example, a 65cm ball is perfect for someone who is between 5'6" to 6' tall. Refer to the product information for recommendations. Be sure to choose a ball that is described as "anti-burst," which means that it if it does get punctured, it will not burst like a balloon.
Any time you use a yoga ball during your pregnancy, enlist the support of your partner or care provider to help stabilize the ball. When using the ball on a hospital floor, consider putting a towel underneath to prevent it from slipping. When using the ball during labor, drape a towel, chux pad, or sheet on top of the ball before sitting down. This will help prevent slipping and absorb any bodily fluids (birth is a fluid-filled event!). If you are bringing your own ball with you to a hospital, be sure to disinfect it before bringing it back into your home. Hospital floors are not known for cleanliness!
Positions & Benefits
Perhaps one of the most obvious uses of the yoga ball in labor is sitting. Different than a chair or stool, a yoga ball is round and pliable, making it the perfect balance of cushion and support for your perineum. And because of its shape, the yoga ball facilitates easy rocking and hip circles, both of which help create a soothing rhythm during contractions, and can assist with baby's positioning and descent. Sitting during labor is more restful than standing, but because you are upright, you can still take advantage of gravity.
As labor progresses, it becomes crucial that you rest in between contractions. The yoga ball can be positioned perfectly next to a bed allowing you to lean onto the bed (with pillows to bring your head and shoulders to a comfortable height) so that you can completely relax and even sleep in between contractions.
A yoga ball can provide a more restful hands and knees (or "all-fours") position during labor. This position can be helpful to change baby's position, to cope with "back labor," and to provide your partner or doula with access to your back and hips for massage, counter pressure, and the double hip squeeze. (Pregnancy photo © Birth of a Family, LLC)
When used atop a bed, a yoga ball allows you to rest on while standing. Place the ball on a bed and drape your arms over the ball while you stand. This position lets you to take full advantage of gravity while resting your upper half.
The yoga ball can be an excellent squatting partner. Squatting widens your pelvic outlet, which can help with baby's descent and positioning. You can use the ball to relax upright while your partner massages you, you can brace yourself by placing the ball in front of you while you squat during labor, or place the ball between a wall and the small of your back, and slowly squat down into position using the ball to stabilize yourself.
What yoga ball positions will you use during your labor?
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