I am a big fan of birth balls (Exercise Balls) and they have a multitude of uses that makes them well worth the investment. The following are some ideas about how you cannot only have a more comfortable pregnancy, labour and birth, but a safer one as well.
Selecting your birth Ball.
Size Matters. Your height will give you an idea of what size ball will be right for you. Most mothers suite a 65 cm ball but if you are tall (1.75cm 5ft 9inches or above) you will probably need a ball that is 75cm.
Inflate your ball so that it is firm but it gives a little when press on it. You could use a pencil to make a level on a door- frame so that you can inflate the ball to the right size for you.
Balls tend to lose air over time so you may need to top yours up to keep it at the correct height for sitting comfortably, With your knees level with or just below your hips. Avoid the temptation to over inflate your ball as they become hard to use correctly when you do.
It is best practice to use your ball regularly through out your pregnancy so that you feel comfortable and safe using it.
Using your Birth ball
Place your ball on carpet rather than a smooth floor if you can this helps to make it more stable. The first few times you use your ball it may help you place your ball near a chair or a wall until you are stable on it.
Use a birth ball to sit on instead of a chair. Trade the chair for a birth ball at the computer, at the table and even while watching TV.
During pregnancy you can use your ball to sit comfortably while you are working or relaxing. As your pregnancy progresses you will find it way more comfortable and easier than getting off a soft sofa.
In addition to avoiding having your baby adopting a posterior position in the uterus. Sitting on a ball will also help to improve your posture and breathing, it can also protect and strengthen your back muscles.
It is also a great time to practice exercising your pelvic floor while sitting on your birth ball. It can be easier to feel what is happening and you will also be working your tummy muscles at the same time.
Remember you need a pelvic floor with good tone to help your baby to turn in the birth canal and avoid the use of forceps. So the pelvic floor exercises on the birth ball are great for this. Just be sure to let your pelvic floor release for the same amount of time that you draw the pelvic floor muscles up so that you can get used to the sensation of relaxing your pelvic floor because you will need to let those muscles go to birth your baby.
At all times it is important to use common sense. If you feel dizzy or ill, don’t use your ball!
Doing vigorous circles on the ball can help get the baby’s head on the cervix
If your water releases (breaks, rupture of membranes, ROM) and there are no contractions, then these circles on the ball, done smoothly, but actively, perhaps to salsa music, can help bring the head on the cervix and bring on contractions. Do 20 minutes. Change directions periodically during the 20 minutes you do the circles. Alternate abdominal lifts with circles on the ball once contractions begin may also be helpful.
It is a vigorous exercise that shifts the asynclitic (the head is tipped as if listening) or posterior baby lower through the pelvis. It may correct the angle of the baby’s head. It will help fetal descent if the reason for lack of descent is an unfavorable angle of the baby’s head.
The birth ball can be used to sit on in early labor. The upward curve of the ball is a nice support during labor. The curve gives a slight counter pressure to the slightly engorged or swollen vulva during labor. It’s just more comfortable than a chair
Gentle bouncing on the ball between the waves may also help the opening up of the cervix and help you baby to drop down through the stations in the pelvis.
The ball can also be wonderful mobile support for the mother’s upper body when she is kneeling and leaning forward in labor. This position on the ball makes it easy to rock forward and back during contractions, which soothes many women. Other women like to rock side to side or even make gentle circles to calm themselves and rock their bodies during contractions. It’s a way to be in a hands and knees position without straining the wrists.
These positions also give your birth partner plenty of room to support you, massage you or apply pressure to your lower back during contractions.
After the Birth
You may find your ball more comfortable to sit on than a hard chair, particularly if the area between your vagina and anus (perineum) is sore. Deflate it a little to make it softer and take the pressure off any stitches or bruising.
The ball is great to sit on while comforting a baby. A baby who is in pain from gas often calms for walking. After a while, a parent’s legs are tired. If a similar rhythm can be imitated on the ball, the parent can sit while holding the baby upright over their shoulder and soothe the baby while resting their own legs. Make sure you are comfortable sitting on the ball and are able to get on and off without losing your balance before you try sitting down on a ball with a baby in your arms though.