Using a birth ball during pregnancy and early labour

July 01, 2022

Using a birth ball during pregnancy and early labour

You don’t actually need much to have a baby. You really don’t. (Most of its just sold to you through very clever marketing.) And the same applies to giving birth!

BUT! Birth balls are my one “must buy”.

Birth ball… exercise ball…. yoga ball… they’re all the same thing. Just an exercise ball that you can use in pregnancy and labour.

Why use a birth ball in pregnancy?

Using a birth ball pregnancy can help by both supporting and strengthening your body in pregnancy, and also by preparing your body for birth.

When sat on a birth ball you naturally adopt a better posture. That slumping that we tend to do on the sofa? You can’t do that on a birth ball! So just by sitting on a birth ball you support and strengthen your back, and you gently engage your core and pelvic floor.

Birth balls are also great for your baby’s positioning. The ball helps to open and balance your pelvis and keeps you in a great, upright position – all of which encourages your baby to adopt a better position for birth.

What about during labour?

The benefits of using birth balls in labour have been suspected for a while, and in 2020 a study was published that confirmed some amazing statistics. The Ball Trial was introduced to look into women’s experiences of using a birth ball in labour. It found that of those women who used a birth ball in early labour:

  • 89.2% found the ball helpful
  • 92.5% would use it again
  • 89.1% would recommend it

Not only did birth balls improve women’s early labour experience, they were associated with hospital admissions later in labour, and amazingly they reduced the rate of unplanned caesarean birth. There was an unplanned c-section rate of 17.9% amongst the women not using birth balls, versus an unplanned c-section rate of 7.5% amongst the women using birth balls.

How do I use a birth ball?

Do what feels good! You can simply have a little bounce up and down, you can move your hips in circles, you can do figures of 8, and you can tilt your pelvis forward and back or from side to side. Listen to your body and feel into it.

You don’t need to treat time on your birth ball like a workout - you can use it whilst watching TV in the evening! And if you have a desk-based job, it can also act as a brilliant surface to sit on whilst you’re working.

And of course you don’t have to be sat on the ball. During labour in particular, you might like kneeling and leaning over the ball, or standing and hugging the ball against a wall or other high surface. It’s all about what feels good for you.

What sort of birth ball should I get?

There are lots of fancy models on the market, but all you need is a simple exercise ball. The most important thing to focus on is that your hips are at least as high (or higher) than your knees. This is because of the angle that your pelvis will adopt – you want your pelvis to tip forward rather than back.

Using a birth ball post-natally

That birth ball may stick around in your lounge for a bit longer than you expect! Postnatally, they are a great bouncy surface to sit on when cuddling and settling your baby – they love the movement! And of course, if you’ve had a vaginal birth it can be nice to have a soft surface for you to sit on as you recover from birth. All those benefits of the ball, the gentle engagement of your core and pelvic floor, will still be there postnatally. 

I highly recommend getting a birth ball in pregnancy and using it throughout your pregnancy so that it’s something that you’re familiar with by the time labour comes around. And if you’re giving birth in a birth centre or hospital, make sure you throw it in the car and take it with you! There may not be a birth ball where you’re going.

If you would like to know more about the simple ways that you can be preparing for birth, and stacking the odds in your favour for the type of birth that you want, come and join us on Bump to Birth to Breast. My approach to birth is both positive and realistic - so that you feel informed, prepared, confident and in control!

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