Have you thought about using a birth ball during pregnancy and birth? Here are some reasons why they are a great (and relatively cheap) piece of kit which can aid comfort as your bump gets bigger during pregnancy and can really help you work with your body and baby during labour.
Choosing a Ball
First up, size matters!
Your birth ball needs to be inflated so that your knees are about 8-10cm lower than your hips when you sit on it. Birth balls come in different diameters and you should choose one relative to your height.
55cm diameter: If you are 5ft 4" or shorter
65cm diameter: If you up to 5ft 8"
75cm diameter: If you are 5ft 9" or taller.
It is also a good idea to make sure that the ball you choose is 'anti-burst' meaning it will deflate slowly if it accidentally rolls over anything sharp!
To check if you have the right size or if you need to inflate your ball a bit more, sit squarely on the ball and place your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Ideally your hips should be about 8-10cm higher than your knees. This is ideal for labour as when your hips are lower than your knees it can narrow the pelvic-opening which can impact your baby’s position.
Some Usage Tips
Make sure your ball is stable when you go to sit on it. Have someone steady it for you. Alternatively, a carpet / rug can keep a ball more stable than a smooth floor.
Go barefoot if you can or wear shoes, slippers or socks to that make your feet 'non-slip'.
Try and keep your feet about 60cm apart. Keeps your pelvis open and aids stability.
Moving around can get a little harder as your pregnancy progresses and sitting on a ball can feel much more comfortable to sit on than desk chairs or sofas. You tend to find yourself rocking or bouncing gently on a ball when you sit on one which is working your tummy and back muscles to help keep you upright so they are great for your balance and posture.
Sitting on a ball rather than slouching on a sofa can be great to help encourage your baby into a good position for birth and as your bump gets bigger, can help you distribute your weight more evenly which can relieve back and hip ache and provide you with support for your knees and ankles.
Using a Ball During Labour
During labour, a birthing ball can reduce the pain of your contractions as you tend to be able to move freely, are more upright and you have no pressure on your sacrum. You may find you instinctively bounce and sway in rhythm with your contractions and adopt and maintain upright positions which lets gravity take some effect during labour. Sitting on the ball with your legs wide apart can also help open your pelvis ready for birth.
Sitting on a ball leaning forwards - you can really relax in this position as totally supported.
Standing and leaning over a ball - With the ball placed on the floor, bed or table or up against a wall the you can assume a leaning position. In this position the ball takes some of your weight and encourages you to sway your pelvis.
Kneeling on the floor and learning over the ball - a great position if you are experiencing a back ache labour as keeping the weight forward will take the pressure off your sacrum. You can easily sway your helps whilst the ball supports your weight and partners can reach your back / sacrum for massage and pressure.
Leaning on the birth ball is also a great way to facilitate 'Cat Arching' where from a hands and knees position you tuck your bottom under by contracting your abdominal muscles and arching your back, and then slowly relaxing and level the spine. This can feel great both during pregnancy and labour to help with back discomfort.
Sitting on a ball - easier for you to rock and sway on the birth ball, while still keeping your pelvis open and having your perineum supported. Birth partners can offer a back massage or sacral pressure.
Squatting on the floor using the ball for stability - This deep squat helps you open her pelvis to it’s widest diameter while still being supported. It’s important to keep you feet flat on the ground to help keep your perineum relaxed but you can see on the left I am slightly on tip-toes .... blame the the tight jeans and my creaky joints for that one!
That is what you are aiming for!
What you can do with your Hips
Sway from side to side - helps ease tightness and tension in your back and hips
Move your helps in a figure of 8 - helps to relieve lower back pain and encourage baby's head to move down into the pelvis
Circular motions - help baby get into a good position during labour.
Using your Birth Ball Postnatally
A birth ball is great for your to sit on postnatally. After giving birth, it is only natural to feel a little uncomfortable around your perineum and sitting on a softer surface feels so much nicer.
You might want to deflate your ball at this point to make it softer and use it instead of a chair for watching TV, relaxing, feeding your baby or even holding your baby whilst you gently bounce on the ball. Just make sure you are comfortable sitting on the ball and are able to get on and off without losing your balance before you try sitting down on a ball whilst holding your baby.
Toddlers love chasing birth balls round the garden too!
Fancy some more labour and birth tips? Why not join one of my antenatal courses! The Complete Birth Prep Package is suitable for mum and partner and covers antenatal education, hypnobirthing techniques and looking after your newborn. Courses run in Livingston, West Lothian throughout the year. Get in touch to find out more!