Benefits of Using a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy

Benefits of Using a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy

If you desire a natural childbirth, you’ll want to arm yourself with all the tools necessary to make your job easier.

Of course, you’ll also want to get educated, eat healthy food, and take your prenatal. But, you’ll also want to think about how you’re exercising and getting your pelvis “into shape” for labor and delivery. And this is where a birth ball can come into play.

What is Birthing Ball?

Essentially, a birthing ball is a large, rubber, exercise ball- like the kind you would see at a gym or yoga studio. Birthing balls are used for a wide variety of reasons- mainly to reduce pain during labor. Do we have your attention now?!

If you’ve experienced childbirth before, especially natural childbirth, you know that there are lots of little ways to ease discomfort and make your birthing experience easier. One of the ways to do so is by incorporating a birthing ball into your experience.

Benefits of Using a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy

As we said above, there are MANY reasons to buy a birthing ball. Most people assume that you should only use a birthing ball DURING labor. However, it is very important that you are comfortable using your birthing ball prior to using it the day you go into labor. Here are a few ways that you can take advantage of your birthing ball BEFORE you give birth:

Alleviate Back Pain

Here’s the good news: Your baby is growing! Congratulations!

Here’s the bad news: This growth is pretty tough on your back… Rest assured- you are not alone.

50% of pregnant women report having experienced back pain during their pregnancy. Back pain occurs for several reasons; a few of them being:

  • hormonal changes- thanks a lot Relaxin
  • posture changes
  • weight gain
  • stress
  • muscle separation

But here’s MORE good news: Sitting on your birthing ball is a great way to stave off back pain, and get a mini-workout in! As you rock or bounce gently, on your birthing ball, your tummy and back muscles will be working to keep you upright. Sitting and moving around on the ball while you are at your desk or watching TV will gently exercise your pelvic muscles, increase mobility, and will help you to naturally develop good posture. This also helps to alleviate back pain during pregnancy, and helps you get back in shape more quickly after the baby is born!

Keep Calm & Birthing Ball On

Sitting on your birthing ball will force you to be mindful of your body, and how it is moving. It requires focus and mental energy to stay upright on your birthing ball, so your brain is focused on a specific task. During your pregnancy, there will be lots of new, and sometimes challenging, things you will face. While this is a normal part of pregnancy, it can be quite overwhelming at times. Carve out a small amount of time every day to sit on your birthing ball, and turn out the world. Call it your in-home meditation session!

Use this quiet time every day to slow down, and focus on the positives of being pregnant. Be mindful of the life you are growing inside your body, and quiet the noise and chaos of your everyday life. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this will become your favorite part of the day!

Ditch Your Office Chair & Opt for Comfort

Many pregnant women choose to remain at work for quite a while during their pregnancy, in some cases even right up to their due date. If your job has you sitting for long periods at a time, consider switching out your desk chair for a birthing ball. By sitting straight on the ball during the day, it takes the pressure off of your sitting bones and pelvic floor.

In the later months of pregnancy, this also helps you breathe more comfortably, as it helps distribute the weight evenly. Not only is this a more comfortable option, but it’s also helpful to the baby in the long run. Tammy Wills, a certified midwife, and doula claims that these balls provide an excellent alternative to sitting on a hard surface.

What are some of the best pregnancy exercises using a birthing ball?

If you’ve never used a birthing ball before, you may need to take some time to find your balance on it. Go slowly as you lower yourself onto the ball for the first time. Have something (or someone) stable to hold onto if you think you might be a bit too wobbly to start off with. Remember to start with warm-up rotations so that you get used to using the ball and how to balance yourself on it.

Warm-up rotations – To help you get used to balancing on the ball, gently rock your hips from side to side. Then try rotating your hips, alternating the direction between clockwise and anti-clockwise.

Wall squat – Stand with the ball placed between your back and a wall. Push against the ball as you bend your knees and lower yourself into the squat position. The ball will roll down the wall with you. Straighten your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat for a few repetitions, take a rest, and then do another set.

Pelvic floor exercises – A birthing ball gives great support for when you do your pelvic floor exercises (also called Kegel exercises), which are an essential component of any pregnancy workout routine. While sitting on the ball, simply contract your pelvic muscles (as you would stop the flow of urine) hold it for a few seconds, and then release and repeat. Try not to hold your breath as you do the contraction. Instead, focus on exhaling as you tighten the muscles.

Pregnant push-up – A typical push up during pregnancy could be quite dangerous, but using an exercise ball you can complete a set of standing push-ups more safely. Press your ball at arm’s length against a wall. Keep your body straight with feet firmly on the floor, slowly press your chest into a ball while bending your elbows. Then slowly reverse the press action until you are back upright. Repeat for a few repetitions, rest, and then do another set.

As with all pregnancy exercise routines, start slow and build up. Don’t try to overdo the number of times you complete an exercise and stop immediately if you feel any sharp pain or you feel dizzy or faint.

As always, be cautious of your balance. Your baby is well protected, but you need to avoid falls. Don’t try a move if you feel unstable. If you’ve chosen to use free weights while sitting on the ball (with your doctor’s permission, of course), make sure your balance is stable and keep both feet firmly on the ground.

Some precautions for exercise in the second trimester

There are some extra issues to be aware of now that you’re well into your second trimester. For instance, you may now be experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions; these are the muscles of your uterus tightening in preparation for labor. They are infrequent, irregular, and mostly painless, and they are usually nothing to worry about.

However, Braxton Hicks contractions can be very unsettling because they can often be mistaken for actual contractions. It’s important that you know how to tell the Braxton Hicks and labor contractions apart so that you know when to act. According to eMedicine, there are key differences to differentiate Braxton Hicks contractions from those associated with labor. Birthing contractions happen at an increased frequency, last longer, and are more intense than Braxton Hicks contractions.

Exercise may trigger Braxton Hicks contractions. If you’re doing a birthing ball exercises (or any other physical activity) and find that contractions are causing you discomfort and won’t stop, then slow down and take a quick breather. If the contractions are painful, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately.

Final Word: Birth balls for all!

When it comes to improving your chances of having a natural birth, there’s nothing better than proper exercise and body alignment. A birth ball can give you that and so much more. They are an inexpensive prop that every pregnant mama should have, and every birth center or hospital should provide for healthier labor and delivery. (And it’s nice to bounce away and feel like a kid again once in a while 🙂 We all need a little more play and fun in our lives!

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