Talk about versatility -- the exercise ball, also called yoga ball, balance ball, fitness ball, stability ball, birth ball, is a cheap and effective multipurpose tool that helps with pregnancy (for stretching and sitting comfort), labor (for comfort and progression), and postpartum/early parenting (sitting comfort, bouncing baby to sleep, stretching), and the rest of your life (desk chair replacement, fun toy for kids of all ages, exercises, stretching). Today, we're talking about the practical ways to use an exercise ball in labor.
Buying an Exercise Ball
First, it's important to know that an exercise ball isn't exactly one-size-fits-all. You will need to choose the ball 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 different sizing. You can buy an exercise ball for around $20 or less online or at any general merchandise retailer or sports store.
A Note About Safety
As with anything you do in pregnancy, it's important to use caution and mind your safety and balance when using an exercise ball. When you're in labor, your concentration and focus is consumed by the work of labor, ie., coping with contractions. Enlist the help of your continuous support person to make sure you are seated safely on the exercise ball during labor. Consider putting a towel or chux pad underneath to prevent the ball from slipping. Before sitting down, drape a towel, chux pad, or sheet on top of the ball. This will make it more comfortable and also absorb bodily birth fluids.
Using an Exercise Ball in Labor - Positions and Benefits
Unlike a chair or stool, an exercise ball is round and flexible, making it the perfect balance of cushion and support for your perineum. And because you're literally sitting on a ball, you can easily rock and circle your hips, both of which not only provide a soothing rhythmic movement during contractions, but can also help baby get into a more ideal position and descend for birth. Sitting allows you to rest without giving up the aid of gravity, which helps labor and birth progress.
As your labor goes on, often for several hours, it's important that you take moments to rest in between contractions. An exercise ball can be positioned perfectly next to a bed, allowing you to lean onto the bed (pillows help bring your head and shoulders to a comfortable height) so that you can completely relax and even drift off to sleep in between contractions.
An exercise ball helps provide a more restful hands-and-knees/all-fours position during labor. This position can help you better cope with back labor, assist in rotating baby's position to relieve back labor, and give your support person easy access to your back and hips for massage and counter pressure. (Pregnancy photo © Birth of a Family, LLC)
Do not be confused by the title -- do NOT stand on an exercise ball (like, ever). When you're standing firmly and safely on the ground, you can use an exercise ball for support while it rests atop a nearby bed. It allows to you use the gravity-positive position of standing while resting the upper half of your body on the ball. Place the ball in a stable position on 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. You can also take advantage of the ball's shape to rock your upper body back and forth while your feet remain in position on the ground.
The exercise ball is 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, or place the ball against a wall and the small of your back, and slowly squat down into position using the ball to stabilize yourself -- get your support person to spot you in this position as it requires balance and leg strength.
Do you plan to use an exercise ball in labor? Are you using it now in pregnancy? What's your favorite use/position?
TagsBirth Active Labor Comfort measures