A birthing ball is an exercise ball that helps ease pregnancy symptoms, but can also encourage a less painful more straightforward birth. It’s a must-have for every pregnant woman hoping for an easier pregnancy, better birth, and happier postpartum. I’m not exaggerating!
In this post we will discuss what type of birthing ball to purchase, when to start using a birthing ball, and how one can help achieve a more comfortable pregnancy and better birth. We will even talk about how to use a birthing ball with a newborn baby postpartum.
Let’s get started!
How to Use a Birthing Ball for a Better Birth
Which Birthing Ball Should I Buy?
Don’t be fooled, a birthing ball is the same thing as an exercise ball. There’s no difference! Make sure the exercise ball purchased is a good quality ball that won’t burst if punctured. Make sure it’s “anti-burst” and you’ll be good to go!
Here are some good options for birthing balls at reasonable prices.
What Size Birthing Ball Should I Buy?
The taller you are the bigger birthing ball needed. Buy a…
- 55 cm ball if you’re under 5’4″
- 65 cm ball if you’re between 5’4″ – 5’10″
- 75 cm ball if you’re over 5’10”
Most women can buy a 65 cm ball and will have the right size. (I own this birthing ball in black.)
IMPORTANT: Please make sure that when sitting on a birthing ball the hips are higher than the knees. If the knees are higher than the hips the birthing ball needs more air or is too small. Having the knees higher than the hips can encourage a non-optimal fetal position for your baby which could mean a longer and more painful labor for you. No bueno!
TIP: Because keeping the ball inflated is so important, I highly encourage you to buy your own air pump if your ball does not already come with one. Many balls do, but if yours doesn’t make sure to add it to your cart.
Now that we know what we’re looking for in a ball, head on over here and get the perfect birthing ball for you.
When Should I Start to Use a Birth Ball?
The best time to start using a birth ball is during the first trimester. You can start using it later, but I wouldn’t wait longer than the second trimester.
The second trimester is when your baby begins to GROW RAPIDLY which means your body will be adjusting quickly to compensate. Using a ball as your body accommodates a growing baby will help make pregnancy more comfortable.
Also, as soon as you begin experiencing signs of labor, you can begin to use a birthing ball. Many women find relief in sitting on a ball in early labor, active labor, and even transition. However, you may need to get off the ball during the pushing stage. 😉
How is a Birthing Ball Helpful?
One way a birthing ball is helpful is that it relieves pelvic pressure, which can be a godsend for some women. What the ball does is it gently pushes back on the pelvic opening which can provide mild relief. This can be especially helpful in the third trimester closer to 40 weeks.
One of the best benefits of using a birthing ball during pregnancy is that it encourages optimal fetal positioning. Ever notice how you can’t slouch while sitting on a ball? Well, a birthing ball demands that we hold our bodies in alignment and with good posture. And believe it or not, those two things encourage baby to be in the best position for birth. And when a baby is in the best position for birth, things are usually less painful and not as long. Amazing!
Also, sitting on a birthing ball gently opens the pelvis and hips relaxing them and further encouraging an optimal fetal position in preparation for birth.
Another way a birthing ball is helpful is that it can relieve pregnancy back pain.
How Do I Use a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy?
Now that we know why a birthing ball is helpful, let’s talk about how to use one during pregnancy.
A simple and fun way to use a birthing ball during pregnancy is to sit and do hip circles or a figure 8 movement with the hips. This is a light exercise that strengthens the hips, relaxes muscles and joints, and of course, encourages optimal fetal positioning.
A more practical use of a birth ball during pregnancy is as a replacement for an office chair. When I had an office job during my first pregnancy, I brought my ball to work. For part of the day I would sit on the ball, and for the other part the office chair.
Sitting on a birth ball is a form of constant mild exercise as it engages different muscle groups to keep you stable on the ball. Because of this, it exhausted me and I struggled to sit on it all day long. It seemed like an OK compromise to sit on it for only half of the day. 😉
TIP: If you sit in an office setting all day long, using a ball in lieu of an office chair is 100% necessary to help promote optimal fetal positioning. Our bodies were not created to sit all day and if we are not proactive we will more than likely experience consequences.
Another way to use a birthing ball during pregnancy is as a stabilizer while doing squats. Squats are an excellent way to keep the pelvic floor and legs strong throughout pregnancy.
“Squat 300 times per day, you’re going to give birth quickly.” – Ina May Gaskin
Now, I don’t know if that is 100% TRUE, but I know that squatting will only benefit a woman. 😉
Sometimes the weight of pregnancy becomes a bit too much and anything that alleviate the pressure feels amazing. Leaning forward is a wonderful position that helps take some of the burden off a mother’s back. Using a birthing ball to support the upper body while leaning forward is an excellent use of the ball during pregnancy. Parents can kneel with open knees like the woman below, or you could even stand and lean on the ball while it’s on the bed.
Massage and Counter Pressure
One of my favorite things about a birth ball is that it gives easy access to a woman’s hips and back, making massage and counter pressure a no-brainer for partners and other support people. While leaning on a ball a woman can receive:
- Sacral Pressure
- Double Hip Squeeze
- Lower Back Massage
- Shoulder and Neck Massage
How Does a Birthing Ball Encourage Labor?
Assuming that a woman’s body and baby are ready, sitting on a birthing ball can encourage labor. Because a birthing ball encourages optimal fetal positioning, when a baby is in the best position, in my experience, labor is more likely to begin on its own.
Also, in my experience sitting on a birthing ball puts a little bit of pressure from the baby’s head on the cervix which can encourage dilation, and effacement before and during labor.
Besides simply sitting on a birthing ball, add figure 8’s or hip circles. As you get good at them, do them faster and faster. This exercise can encourage labor!
How Do I Use a Birth Ball in Labor?
During my first birth the sensations of labor were so overwhelming for me and sitting on a ball felt terrible. I quickly got off and that was the end of that.
However, for my last two births I used a birthing ball each time. It was very helpful! Some women will like a ball in labor and some women won’t. And some will like it for one birth and not their next. Either way it’s important to have a ball on hand so she has the freedom to try and see if it’s helpful.
Here are some ways to use the birthing ball for a natural birth:
- Sit for relief from pelvic pressure
- Sit and rock, sway or make circles with the hips
- Stand and lean on a ball that’s on the bed
- Sit and lean on bed or partner
- Lean on the ball while pushing
- Sit and receive counter pressure and/or massage
TIP: When at the hospital put a chux pad or towel (or both) on top of the ball. This will ensure a clean sitting space for a laboring woman. (You don’t want hospital floor germs getting on mom. Ew.)
How to Use a Birthing Ball Postpartum
A birthing ball is not something you would use in the third stage of labor or immediately after birth. So if you’re still in the hospital, you don’t need to be bouncing quite yet.
If you’ve had a perineal tear, damage or bruising to the lady bits, wait to use a ball until you have the green light from your care provider. But you read my post about how to prevent tearing so you won’t need to wait, right? 😉
A simple, fun and soothing way to use a birth ball during the postpartum period is to bounce and settle a fussy baby. Simply sit on the ball while holding baby and gently bounce and/or rock. I’ve even had success using the birthing ball postpartum while I was wearing my baby in a wrap.
The same movements used in pregnancy and labor can be similarly helpful with a baby in arms.
Use a Birthing Ball for a Better Birth
A birthing ball is a must-have for every pregnant woman hoping for an easier pregnancy, better birth, and happier postpartum. To recap:
- Most women will need a 65 cm ball.
- Birth balls should be properly inflated so the hips are higher than the knees.
- It’s ok to use a ball at any point in pregnancy, even at the office.
- There are many different ways to use a birth ball during labor – in and out of the hospital, and in and out of bed.
Talk to me! Leave a comment and let me know your experience with a birth ball during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. What worked and didn’t work?Check out my NEWEST eBook: A Simple Guide to the Hard Parts of Labor! What's inside? ---->> ALL of my best information about getting through the hard parts of labor. Want a copy? Simply click the image above, follow the prompts, and it will be delivered to you today!