We’ve all seen them before: those oversized inflated balls at your local yoga studio, which vaguely resemble an overinflated balloon as the yogis twist and contour their bodies around them. Sure, they may look like an unconventional piece of fitness equipment, but did you know that they’re also amazing for expectant mothers-to-be?
Yep, it’s true. If you’re pregnant, then you’re going to love using a yoga – or rather, a birthing ball – in the nine months leading up to delivery. And even better, you can even use it during childbirth and afterward, too!
What Is A Birth Ball?
In brief, a yoga ball is literally no different than a birthing ball. To-may-to, to-mah-to. It’s all the same. These balls are made out of super-strong, durable material (because ouch, can you imagine if they popped while using them?) which makes it all but impossible to puncture them.
That said, the balls you see at the gym or yoga studio tend to run a little bit smaller in size than a birthing ball. Not only are birthing balls a bit larger than yoga balls, but they also have a special texture on them, which makes it harder to fall off them. (No embarrassing mishaps for you or your little one here!)
But what’s the big deal about these yoga-slash-birthing balls? Why would you want to use them during your pregnancy, labor, and afterward, too? Long story short, if you’re no fan of pain (because, like, seriously… who is?) then you’re going to love having a birthing ball in your corner. These birthing balls can seriously help with pain management during all stages of your pregnancy.
And of course, even though they’re called birthing “balls,” not all of them are going to be completely round. Some of them are shaped like peanuts, for instance. Just like the round birthing ball, these peanut-shaped ones are made of the same material. Instead of being an orb, though, it’s tapered in the middle and flared on the sides.
Wondering why some of them are shaped like this? Well… have you ever tried to cuddle with an oversized ball in bed before? No? Me neither. But trust me, it’s not pretty. However, a peanut-shaped birthing ball is much easier to take to bed with you, especially when you’re laying flat or want to throw a leg over it.
The Benefits Of Birthing Ball During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a beautiful, incredible, wonderful – and yes, even kind of brutal – time of a woman’s life. It’s not unusual to feel those unwelcome twinges and aches during the full nine months, especially in your back, stomach, and pelvic floor. But using a birthing ball can help take some of that stress off your body, especially during labor and delivery, sending those aches and pains packing.
If you’re not feeling like rushing out and stocking up on birthing balls right now, especially if you’re still in the earlier stages of your pregnancy, no biggie. However, medical professionals do suggest that if you are interested in getting one, it’s not a bad idea to snag one or two during your third trimester. Gently bouncing on it can help coax your little one’s head into an anterior position if you do so during the first stages of labor.
How Do You Choose One?
When it comes to picking out a birthing ball, the number one thing you want to keep in mind is your comfort. After all, the last thing you want to do is inadvertently make yourself even more uncomfortable during this stage of your life, right? No bueno. Instead, think about your overall size and height before you buy one.
Also, keep in mind that birthing balls come in a variety of sizes (small, medium, and large), so you should be able to find one that best suits your needs. Some of them even come in a variety of sizes based on momma’s height and weight, so if you need a specific size, be sure to scope out those brands.
Some birthing balls come inflated, while others arrive flatter than a pancake. If you don’t want to be fussed with inflating your ball yourself, then it’s probably a better idea to get one that is already pre-inflated. Who needs that kind of stress when you’re already dealing with a hundred other things in preparation for your baby, amirite?
Finally, make sure you take a seat on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. You also want to make sure your pelvic muscles are parallel to the floor and flush with your shoulders. OB-GYNs recommend this position for the maximum benefits when using it.
How Can You Use A Birthing Ball During Pregnancy?
Okay, you’ve carefully done your research, you’ve purchased your birthing ball, and now it’s arrived. Awesome! So, what comes next?
If you’re one of the unlucky women who is feeling lower back pain while pregnant, then you’re going to love your birthing ball. Sitting on it while working, or during those binge-watching sessions, can help take some of that pressure off your spine and allow you to feel more comfortable than just plopping down on the couch.
The big day has arrived, and your little one is on its way! Yay! But you’re in pain and labor stinks. So, not yay? Never fear, your birthing ball is here. Feel free to use it to help you get into the best position to start pushing. Getting on your hands and knees on the birthing ball can work wonders for that back pain that’s oh-so-common during labor.
After Giving Birth
Don’t be surprised if you’re feeling pain between your vagina and your anus after you’ve given birth. That’s completely normal. But also don’t expect to just be able to sit down on hard surfaces afterward, either. That’s not going to happen. Instead, settle down (carefully!) on your birthing ball to take the pressure off those tender areas after delivery.
Birthing Ball Exercises
If you’re looking to sneak in a little gentle fitness after you give birth, why not let your birthing ball continue to work for you after delivery?
Leaning Forward Bouncing Exercise
For this exercise, simply lean forward and bounce gently on your exercise ball for about five to ten minutes at a time. This will help strengthen your leg muscles and improve your blood flow, allowing you to feel more toned and less puffy and bloated.
Who says you can’t lay down when exercising? For this exercise, go ahead and lay down on your back. Place your ankles and legs onto your birthing ball, then slowly raise your body up until it’s in a V-shape. Hold for six seconds, then slowly lower your body back down to the floor. Feel that burn in your abs and legs? That’s your core muscles thanking you for the workout.
Hula Hoop Exercise
Remember the hula hoop? Who didn’t have one of those as a kid? Well, now’s the time to recall that shimmy shake of your hips once more. Simply sit on your birthing ball, rest your hands on your hips, and move your hips in a circular rhythm.
Overhead Ball Squat
Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your posterior and thighs and core, and your birthing ball can help make this workout a breeze. Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Go ahead and lift your ball up in front of you, then bend your knees. Slowly lower yourself into a squat while lifting the ball over your head. Then bring yourself back up into a standing position, lowering your ball back down to in front of you.
Oh, and a little pro tip from a momma who’s speaking from experience here… It’s not a bad idea to invest in a few pairs of non-skid socks if you’re going to do this exercise in other positions, such as lying on your back and kneeling. The last thing you want to do is fall face-forward and bonk your nose on the floor, right? (Okay, fine, yes…that totally happened to me. Ouch.)
As I wrap this up here, how about a bonus science lesson for your own interest? (Why? Because science is awesome, that’s why. C’mon now, who doesn’t love science?) According to the research from a randomized, controlled study a few years back, birthing stools – and of course, birthing balls – work wonders for pregnancy and labor.
The scientists discovered that using one can seriously reduce your pregnancy pain and help you deliver a healthy and happy little bundle of joy. It’s absolutely a win-win all around. So go on, momma. Get yourself a birthing ball and start reaping the benefits of using it today. Even your little one will thank you for it!