Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Using a Birth Ball in Labor

 My birth ball in its brand new Birth Ball cover!

A birth ball is a physical therapy/exercise ball that is an excellent comfort tool for pregnancy, labor and postpartum. It eases labor pain and enhances progress.

Three basic positions used: 1. Sitting, 2. Kneeling and leaning forward, 3. Standing and leaning.

Reasons to Use the Birth Ball During Labor and Afterwards
from a handout, Paulina Perez

The use of the birth ball with all 3 positions provides these benefits:
1. Facilitates physiologic positions for labor
2. Allows for pelvic rocking and body movements
3. Encourages rhythmic movement
4. Can be used with both external and internal fetal monitoring
5. Encourages pelvic mobility
6. Takes advantage of gravity during and between contractions
7. Allows freedom to shift weight for comfort
8. Encourage good physiologic resting positions
9. May speed labor
10. Is beneficial with techniques for failure to progress
11. Helps contractions to be less painful and more productive

Sitting on the ball also has these additional benefits:
12. Encourages pelvic relaxation
13. Provides perineal support without undue pressure
14. Eliminates the firm external pressure of a bed, chair or rocker when sitting

Kneeling and/or standing while leaning forward on the ball also have these additional benefits:
15. Encourages fetal descent
16. Assists in rotation of the baby in the posterior position
17. Helps relieve back pain
18. Removes strain on wrists and hands that occur with the hands and knees position
19. Gives good access for back rub or back pressure
20. May enhance rotation and descent in a difficult birth
21. Helps take the pressure off the hemorrhoids (esp. kneeling over the ball)
22. In shoulder dystocia, it can support the mother who needs to be on hands and knees to facilitate rotation of the posterior shoulder.

Plus, after the birth, the ball has these benefits:
23. Sitting and bouncing on the ball while holding a fussy baby up to your shoulders is a great soother
24. The ball makes a wonderful "prop" for postpartum exercises to restore strength and flexibility.

Using the Birth Ball in Labor
from B*E*S*T Doula Service

The hands and knees position can be very comfortable for many women in labor, but your hands will become numb very quickly. If you get on your knees and rest your head and arms on the ball, there is less strain on the hands and arms and you will be able to spend more time in this relaxing position.

You can sit on the ball, with your partner or doula standing behind you and supporting you. Your legs should be about two feet apart so your feet and butt form a triangle for good balance. You should feel stable and secure. This position helps improve your posture, encourages you to rock side to side or forward and back or in circles, thereby giving the baby a better angle to enter your pelvis.

My favorite position requires two support people, usually the partner and the doula, but a mother, sister or friend would work just as well. The partner sits on the bed, facing the laboring woman sitting on the ball. The doula is behind the woman and is sitting on a stable chair (not one with wheels). During a contraction, mom leans forward and puts her head on the partner’s lap (pillows can be placed on the lap for the laboring woman’s comfort). This gives the doula great access to the woman’s lower back for massage, pressure, heat or cold packs. Between the contractions, the woman leans back against the doula and the doula gently rocks with her from side to side. This is a great opportunity for the doula to help the woman relax between contractions and prepare for the next one.

If you sit on the ball and lean forward against the bed, your partner or doula will have good access to your lower back for counter pressure or massage. Sitting on warm compresses on the ball will maximize perineal relaxation and help you avoid an episiotomy.

If you're having a long, non-progressing labor, it often means that your baby's head is turned slightly to the side and not in a good position for delivery. If this happens, you can get into the hospital bed with the foot lowered as far as it can go. Put the ball on the lowered foot of the bed and you on your knees, with your head and arms resting on the ball, so your hips are higher than your shoulders. This position will help baby to slip away from the position he or she is stuck in and to reposition for an easier birth.

The ball can be placed on the bed if you are standing and you can lean forward, resting your head and arms on the ball for a comfortable, leaning forward position to encourage pelvic swaying.

If you are standing and swaying, the ball can be placed against the wall and you can lean back against it for wonderful back support and pressure, helping you to sway from side to side and relax. Have your partner or doula hold it against the wall until you are leaning against it comfortably.


  1. Would you know of any reason why I found the birthing ball painful where I could only sit for about 5 seconds before having to get off?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...