A birth ball is a large, firm, inflated ball that is an amazing tool to use during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. You may have seen or used a similar ball at a gym, in a Pilates class, or physiotherapy. Most hospitals and birth centers have birth balls available for you to use. If you want to bring your own or are planning a home birth, birth balls cost between $25-$50. I recommend investing in a good quality birth ball so that it will last throughout your childbearing years.
During pregnancy, a birth ball can be used in a variety of ways at all stages of pregnancy. In the first and second trimesters, a birth ball can be used for gentle prenatal exercise like Pilates and Yoga, to keep your body strong and flexible. In the third trimester, you can continue exercising and also practice using the birth ball for labor, using it for relaxation and rhythmic movement that will be soothing and help your baby move into the ideal birthing position (Occiput Anterior).
During labor, movements like spiraling on a birth ball uses gravity to help your baby descend down . You can also use the birth ball to relieve back pain and help move a baby who is in an Occiput Anterior position by kneeling on the floor, leaning forward, and relaxing your whole upper body over the birth ball. Your body will be completely supported by the birth ball so this position can also be comforting when you need to rest and feel held. If you have been walking a lot during early labor and your legs feel tired, but you want to continue being upright, sitting and moving on a birth ball can restore your energy without having to lie down.
Many doulas and midwives have observed that women who have had a positive natural birthing experience used what we call the Three R’s: Relaxation, Rhythm, and Ritual. Rhythmic bouncing or swaying on the birth ball can be a ritual that helps you relax during contractions.
Postpartum, gently bouncing on a birth ball is a wonderful way to soothe your baby when they feel tired, uncomfortable, or fussy. Bouncing on the birth ball will calm and relax your baby because the rhythmic movement reminds them of being in your womb. Nestling your baby close to you in a sling or carrier and then bouncing on the birth ball can be a quick and easy way to help your baby fall asleep. Some babies like to be rocked or bounced constantly; a birth ball supports your weight so your body will not get tired. A birth ball can also be used for gentle postpartum exercise. You can do low-impact, strengthening and toning Pilates type exercises using the birth ball.
I hope these tips on using a birth ball during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum will be of support to you!