Birth Ball

The birth ball as it is known in maternity wards is an exercise ball, and many women, once they've experienced it, wouldn't consider going through labor without one. It's actually just a regular exercise ball you would find in a physiotherapy department. The birthing ball for labor is just another method of easing the discomfort of labor. It helps keep the pelvis moving while offering support to relieve spasms and the intensity of labor.

The birthing ball for labor becomes an important tool which can be used in different positions during maternity and can become an important  alternative to the bed. The ball offers greater range of movement than a chair and so allows the woman to focus on her contractions and change positions as necessary. Being free to move can improve blood flow to the  placenta and therefore help prevent possible fetal distress. During the last few weeks of pregnancy the exercise ball is easier to get out of than a chair and is often more comfortable. exercise ball for labor

To sit on the ball you should place feet about shoulder width apart,  keep your chest up, and maintain the normal curvature in your lower back (lordosis). Find your neutral position - neither hyperextended, nor flattened. If you feel you are going to fall off the ball simply butt it up against a wall or for even more stability, into a corner. Just  watch for sharp objects. Letting air out of the ball with also create a  softer surface and give you a bit more stability.

I had a patient mention to me that she uses her exercise ball to help her new baby get to sleep. Apparently the gentle rocking motion is  just what it takes.

Birth Ball or Exercise Ball Positioning

  Click on the images below for a full description. 

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In a  systematic  review on maternal positioning  during the second stage of  labor, the  Cochrane Collaboration found that either sitting up or side lying  to push instead of lying on the back resulted in:

  1. Reduced  duration of second stage of labor
  2. A small reduction in assisted  deliveries
  3. A reduction in episiotomies
  4. A smaller increase in second degree perineal tears
  5. Increased estimated  risk of blood loss > 500ml
  6. Reduced reporting of  severe  pain during second stage of labor
  7. Fewer abnormal fetal  heart  rate patterns

The  study  suggests that in pregnancy women should be encouraged to give birth in the position they find most comfortable. Birthing on the ball  is  a  viable alternative. 

Useful Links

Guidelines  for choosing the right ball for labor are the same as for choosing the right exercise ball.
How do I buy the right size ball?
How can I use the ball afterward to get into shape? See our Post Partum Exercise Program.
Other birthing ball tips submitted by readers.
Be cautious if exercising while pregnant.
Exercise ball precautions.
Does the ball help labor pain?
Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period

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