Using a Birthing Ball: During Pregnancy, Labor, And Beyond

A birth ball is a standard fitness ball that can be used in pregnancy and postpartum for fitness, alignment, and soothing. The birthing ball is a safe and beneficial non-pharmacological tool that can be used in pregnancy and labor to increase your chances of having a vaginal delivery. Postpartum can be sued for healing, recovery, and infant soothing.

pregnant belly with a ball

What Are the Benefits of a Birth Ball?

Here are a few potential benefits of using a birthing ball:

  • Eases back pain and improves your core strength.
  • Stimulates blood flow to the pelvic area and your baby
  • Counter-pressure on your perineum and thighs
  • Supports your knees and ankles
  • Eases labor pain and reduces the duration of labor
  • May reduce the anxiety and pain from contractions
  • Opens the pelvis and relaxes the attachments and muscles
  • Supports an upright position, working with gravity promoting fetal decent
  • May align the baby’s position before the birth

*Note if you get dizzy or faint while using the ball, refrain from using it.

Shopping For Your Birth Ball?

I encourage you to look for a birth ball with the following

  • The size of the ball depends on your height. When you sit on it, your feet should touch the floor flat-footed.
      • If you are less than 5’2” choose a 45 or 55 cm ball
      • If you are 5’22-5’6” choose a 55 or 65 cm ball
      • If you are over 5’6” choose a 65 or 75 cm ball
  • Choose one with an anti-burst feature and an anti-slip finish
  • Choose a weighted ball to keep them from rolling around when you get off
  • Choose a pressure-tested ball so that you can be sure of its quality


Birthing Ball User Tips

Here are a few tips for first-time users of a birthing ball.

  • When filling the ball, leave it slightly underinflated so that it cradles your bottom. With your knees at a 90-degree angle from your hips or slightly higher to avoid back pressure.
  • Go barefoot or wear anti-slip shoes. Have someone hold your hand and support you from the back when sitting on the ball for the first time.
  • Place your feet firmly on the floor to gain your balance. Place one hand on the ball and slowly lower yourself to sit on the ball.
  • Place your hands on the knees and try rocking the pelvis sideways, back and forth, and then do circles in both directions. Once you feel you are comfortable with it, bounce on it a little.
  • If you are not comfortable with the rocking or bouncing movements, place a static object nearby for support.
  • Breathe normally, control your movements, and stop the activity if you experience any pain.

Using A Birthing Ball in Pregnancy and in Labor

During pregnancy, you can use the birthing ball as a chair alternative when sitting or working. It is much easier to get on and off the ball than it is to sit on a soft sofa or a hard chair. But go slowly if you are not used to it. Starting with a few hours each day and working up to using it to replace your chair. Have fun when sitting- try rocking and bouncing on it which will engage your tummy and back muscles and help the baby to align in the pelvis.

Ways to use the ball:

  • When sitting on the ball, sit with feet shoulder-width apart.
      • Then rock your pelvis back and forth while sitting on the ball (pelvic tilts).  Or get on your knees and rest your upper body on the ball as you do your cat cows.
      • Or roll your hips clockwise and anti-clockwise (hula hoops) while sitting on the ball. Even better make a figure 8 with your hips.
      • Add in a bounce on the ball for counterpressure.
  • Get into a kneeling position and then lean over the ball (resting child’s pose). Then move your hips as desired until you relax.
  • Place the ball behind your back for wall squats.
  • Labor requires a lot of hip and gluteal strength, so training these muscles is important. Add in some glute bridges by sitting on the floor with your upper back against the ball. Push up through both of your feet and lift your hips off the floor towards the ceiling, as high as you can comfortably go without arching your back. Hold for three seconds and slowly lower back down. Repeat.
  • Kneeling Ball Rollouts. Start in a high kneeling position with your hands on the ball. Keeping your back straight, roll the ball forward until you can feel your core engaging. Hold for three seconds, then roll the ball back in. Repeat.
  • Back and Upper Body Stretch. Kneel on the floor, hinge forward at your hips, and rest your arms on the ball. Gently rock the ball to one side until a stretch is felt. Hold here while breathing into the opposite side of your rib cage for 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides until your muscles release.
  • Consider adding a TENS unit. Place the pads on your back and use this modality to further alleviate discomfort as you move on the ball.


Birthing Ball Postpartum

You can use a birth ball postpartum in the following ways:

  • You will feel sore for some days after the delivery. Sitting on the ball is more comfortable than sitting on a hard surface.
  • Once you get the baby to latch conveniently, you can sit on the ball when breastfeeding. It can be better than slumping on the bed. Or place the ball behind your back when feeding.
  • You can also bounce, cuddle, and soothe your crying baby while sitting on the ball. This mimics the moments your child got used to in utero as you walked around. This is especially great for partners!
  • Exercising with the ball helps tone up your post-pregnancy body.
  • When the baby is ready, they may also like to stretch on the ball, eventually moving to use the ball as a prop as they crawl and then walk.

Exercise and physical fitness are the best ways to improve your chances of a natural delivery. And a birthing ball can offer you that and more. Try it!