Hey, have you ever considered using a birth ball or gym ball during your pregnancy and for labour and birth? Here are some reasons why they are a great (and relatively cheap) piece of kit which can make a world of difference in keeping you comfortable as your bump grows during pregnancy, and they're excellent for helping you work with your body and baby during labour.
Let's start with picking the right ball for you.
Size matters! The diameter of the ball should align with your height:
If you're 5ft 4" or shorter, opt for a 55cm diameter.
Up to 5ft 8" go for a 65cm diameter.
If you're 5ft 9" or taller, choose a 75cm diameter ball.
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 particularly during labour as this helps to keep your pelvis open and give baby plenty of room. You may find it more comfy to have it a little softer during pregnancy.
Tips for using your birth ball:
Ensure stability before sitting on it; a carpet or rug can help keep it steady.
Go barefoot or wear non-slip footwear.
Keep your feet about 60cm apart for stability and an open pelvis.
During pregnancy, moving around might become a bit more challenging, but sitting on a birth ball can be much comfier than chairs or sofas. The gentle rocking or bouncing (which seems to happen involuntarily) can work wonders on your tummy and back muscles, improving your balance and posture 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.
Sitting on a ball rather than slouching on a sofa is also an easy way to try to encourage your baby into a good position for birth. Known as Optimal Foetal Positioning, it is something we discuss during my in-person antenatal course, The Complete Birth Prep Package.
Using a Ball During Labour
When it comes to labour, these balls are game-changers! They can ease contraction pain, allow freedom of movement (bouncing and swaying) and keep you upright without pressure on your sacrum. Upright is good as gravity is most definitely your friend.
Different positions—like sitting, leaning, kneeling, or squatting—can aid in opening your pelvis and provide much relief.
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. - Birth partners are 100% included in my birth prep courses, and massage techniques are a useful tool to know!
Squatting on the floor using the ball for stability - This deep squat helps you open your 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 my creaky joints for that one!
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.
Will my local hospital / birth centre have a ball?
Most maternity units have access to birth balls for you to use during labour and birth if you do not have your own.
Using your Birth Ball Postnatally
Postnatally, the birth ball remains a fantastic tool. Sitting on it can be more comfortable for your perineum after giving birth. You can deflate it a bit for a softer surface and use it for various activities like watching TV, feeding your baby, or gently bouncing while holding your little one.
And hey, toddlers absolutely love chasing these balls around the garden!
Looking for more tips and guidance for labour and birth? Consider joining one of my antenatal courses! The Complete Birth Prep Package covers everything from antenatal education to hypnobirthing techniques and newborn care.
Courses are available in Livingston, West Lothian, and Larbert, Stirlingshire. Feel free to reach out to learn more!
IN PERSON ANTENATAL COURSES
LIVINGSTON EH54 & LARBERT FK5 & EDINBURGH
ONLINE HYPNOBIRTHING & BREASTFEEDING WORKSHOPS