A birth ball, or exercise ball, is a GREAT item to add to your toolbox for pregnancy and labor. They're inexpensive, easily available, and incredibly versatile. I've learned a thing or two about how to best use a birth ball. Here are some tips!
Get to know your birth ball.
Purchase a birth ball that fits your body. They're available in 3-4 different sizes. Purchase the size that coordinates with your body height. I'm 5'1", and I have a 55cm ball. Also, be sure to buy an "anti burst" ball... the last things any pregnant person wants is to plop onto the floor after accidentally rolling over that thumbtack left over from hanging Christmas decorations. Very uncool and very unsafe! Unbox your ball, pump it up, and let it sit over night. The material will stretch a bit. In the morning top it off with a bit more air.
Inflate the ball to fit your body correctly. This is also why it's important to purchase the correct size ball. You want your knees to be level with or slightly below your hips. If you sink, and feel like an adult sitting at the kid's table, when you sit on your ball, then inflate it more. Sit on your sit bones- your sit bones are the hard part of your bum you feel when you sit on your hands. Your pubic bone (the hard piece above your vagina) should point down slightly, your belly button should point straight out in front of you. Keep your chest open and shoulders back. Most of us don't utilize good posture regularly, so it might be a good idea start slow and steady on the birth ball. Start with a few minutes a day. Gradually add time as your muscles strengthen.
Why is all of this important?
Your baby's position in relation to your pelvis's position impacts how labor feels and progresses. Practicing good posture throughout pregnancy encourages your baby to also practice good posture- ideally, they'll hangout in your belly with they're head down, bum up, and back to your belly or side. This sets them up for the most straight forward route into the world.
How to use a birth ball in early labor.
Is the baby engaged in the pelvis? This is a question you can ask yourself and your care provider in your final few weeks of pregnancy. Feel for your baby's head at your pubic bone. Feeling a gap between your pubic bone and the baby's head, means baby higher in the uterus and is not currently engaged. Feeling a ledge, or the baby's head on top of the pubic bone, means baby is overlapping the pubic bone, also not currently engaged. Feeling a smooth transition at your pubic bone, having a "dropped" belly, and easier breathing all indicate the baby is engaged in the pelvis. Yay! This is a necessary precursor to birth. Way to go!
A birth ball can be a fantastic tool for helping baby wiggle into the pelvis. Sit on the birth ball and move in huge, hula hoop size circles. The point is to really move your pelvis, so that all sides of the pelvis take turns being the highest and lowest points of the pelvis. Your pelvis will not be level, and you might need to move slowly or ask a partner to spot you. Make this fun! Put on some music, or a hilarious show and have a great time moving with your baby.
How to use a birth ball in active labor.
A birth ball can be used so many different ways in active labor. It's a wonderful tool that offers both energetic and restful options. When you need to move, sit on the birth ball and bounce or sway. Move a lot or move a little. When you need to rest, kneel on the floor or bed and lean your upper body on the ball. This is a great way to give your hands and wrists a break. You can also stand, place the ball on a chair, couch, or bed and lean your upper body against it. These resting positions allow someone to offer counter pressure, hip squeezes, rebozo sifting, massage, and heat to your lower back and hips. The possibilities are endless!
Those are my tips and tricks for using a birth ball. Let me know what you think if you try anything I mentioned. Also, comment or email me if you have any additional tricks! Happy birthing!