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Birthing tools help parents get in different and better positions, which decrease the pain of childbirth and encourage labor progress. They help parents have a less painful and faster birth!

Women planning a natural childbirth are most likely to seek out alternative methods of pain relief. However, even those planning for an epidural will find benefits in tools like the peanut ball, birth ball, or massage. Have a conversation with your care provider or hospital to find out what tools and equipment are available.

Use the following birthing props, tools, and techniques for pain relief during labor.

Birthing Balls

A birthing ball or pregnancy ball is one of the most common birthing tools used. A birth ball is used during pregnancy and birth to ease discomfort and encourage labor.

Don’t be fooled! A birth ball is simply an exercise or yoga ball repurposed for birth. Birthing balls come in a few sizes – 55 cm, 65 cm, and 75 cm. Make sure to buy the correct size birthing ball for your height.

Positions for Birthing Ball

Many women enjoy sitting on a birth ball as early as the first trimester to ease pelvic pressure, relieve back pain, and prepare the body for labor. Sitting on a birthing ball is the most common position, but there are more ways to use a pregnancy ball besides sitting.

Birthing Stool/Chair

A birth stool or chair is an excellent birthing tool because it opens the pelvis as if a woman is squatting, but without the work of a squat. Squatting is a desired birthing position because it opens the pelvis quite well, allowing more space for baby to come through. However, a squat is very difficult to sustain. By the time a woman is ready to push, she feels extremely exhausted, and has little energy to squat during push.

A birthing stool assists women in an upright position with an open pelvis, but without the strain. A common birthing stool is the CUB (comfortable upright birth) which is an inflatable birthing stool. Both hospitals where I live offer them as a birthing tool.

Birth Bar

A birth bar, sometimes called a squat bar, is an attachment for labor and delivery beds that makes it easier to squat in labor. A birth bar allows for easier squatting, kneeling, and pushing at birth.

Peanut Ball

Studies show that when a peanut ball is used during labor it shortens the laboring time and pushing time. If you find yourself in bed during labor, especially with an epidural, make sure you’re using a peanut ball.

clipart of woman using peanut ball on side during labor in hospital bed

Warm Water

Warm water in a tub or shower is a wonderful way to reduce tension and pain in labor. Birth tubs allow parents to submerge the whole belly, alleviating pressure and making it easier to change positions. Some parents even give birth in water!

Showers are a quick and easy way to experience the benefits of hydrotherapy in labor. Some parents find it helpful to aim the warm water on the belly or back to pinpoint relief during contractions. I think a shower is a wonderful place to labor during transition.

Massage Tools

Massage interrupts the brain talking with the body about pain. What does that mean for birth? When a woman is massaged in labor it decreases her perception of pain, making for a less painful more satisfying birth.

Massage also decreases tension during birth. Whenever a woman is able to decrease tension, it will decrease her pain as well.

Massage doesn’t need to be complicated. Use a lotion or massage oil, scented or unscented, with firm, long, downward strokes for the best result. The shoulders, back, or hands are a good place to start massaging a woman in labor.

Counter Pressure

Ever heard of someone using a tennis ball or rolling pin in labor? These birthing tools provide counter pressure to the lower back and hips, which decrease pain during contractions. However, I’ve never used a tennis ball or rolling pin at a birth.

The easiest way to help a woman in labor with counter pressure is to simply use the hands with firm pressure to the sacrum or hips. Counter pressure is best used during contractions and not between. Everybody needs to rest between contractions.

Labor and Birthing Positions

Changing labor positions is one of the best birthing tools parents can use to decrease pain and encourage labor progress! Different positions helps alleviate pain, as some positions feel better than others. Changing positions also helps labor to progress, because movement shifts the pelvis and baby, encouraging further descent.

The 5 best labor and birthing positions are:

  1. Standing, rocking, and leaning
  2. Sitting on a birthing ball
  3. Hands and knees or kneeling
  4. Sitting on the toilet
  5. Side lying

Breath Awareness

One of the biggest ways parents cause suffering for themselves in labor is to mentally think about what’s to come. Anything that brings parents back to the present moment will decrease pain and suffering. The easiest way to stay in the present moment is to pay attention to the breath, or use breath awareness.

Simply bring all your focus and attention to the breath – you don’t have to change your breath, or breathe differently. Just notice what’s already happening. Breath awareness is one of the most effective and simple birthing tools parents can use during labor to decrease pain.

More Birthing Tools

Here you’ll find more resources, articles, and inspiration for birthing tools. Enjoy! :)