Getting yourself prepared for birth, physically and mentally, is a top priority for every home birth momma. You’re doing everything you can to make sure you’ve got a great midwife, all the necessary supplies, and the ultimate birthing space.

From a personal standpoint, you are probably preparing mentally, getting educated about home birth, and looking for all the ways to achieve your dream of a natural home birth.

One excellent tool to help with this endeavor? Your birthing ball!

You might have heard about how helpful your birthing ball will be when you’re actually in labor (and we’ll talk about that more below), but don’t let it collect dust until then.

How can you use your birthing ball to prepare for natural birth?

  • For prenatal exercise in preparation for childbirth
  • To encourage baby into the optimal position for birth
  • To stretch your tired and achy body
  • To relieve pain and pressure, especially as pregnancy progresses
  • To help induce labor (if your body is ready!)

Today, we’re going to discuss exactly how to use your birthing ball to do all of those things during pregnancy. We’ll also answer questions like, when to start using your birthing ball, how to use a birthing ball in labor, and finally what to do with your birthing ball after birth. Let’s dive in!

5 Ways to use your birthing ball during pregnancy

Whether you’re in your first trimester or your due date is around the corner, it’s never too early or late to start using your birthing ball during pregnancy. And I think you’ll be surprised at how versatile and helpful it can be in preparing for birth, finding pain relief, and ultimately inducing labor.

Here are the 5 best ways to use your birthing ball during pregnancy:

1. Prenatal exercises with your birthing ball

Exercising while pregnant is one of the best things you can do for the health of both you and your baby. It will help prepare you for labor, relieve pain, and even energize you when you’re suffering from pregnancy fatigue. In fact, the ACOG recommends pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise most days as long as you don’t have any complications.

Need more convincing? In a study published in 2018, researchers found that women who exercised regularly had a shorter first and second stage of labor AND had less use of an epidural during labor. As a momma who’s likely preparing for a planned home birth or natural birth in another setting, this is some excellent motivation to get exercising.

How can you exercise with your birthing ball during pregnancy?

As a prop for a pregnancy-safe, total body workout like in this 12-minute workout by FitMomma:

For support during a prenatal yoga routine that focuses on pelvic floor strengthening, like in this Pregnancy Yoga Flow by Lotus Flower Yoga:

To do light upper body weight training while sitting on your birthing ball, as demonstrated in this video by Sia Cooper from Diary of a Fit Mommy:

In addition to these 3 exercise videos, you can use your birthing ball to exercise by:

  • Simply sitting on it! Using your birthing ball as a chair at your desk or even while watching TV at home is a mini workout in itself. This is because it forces you to use your best posture which engages your core and puts your pelvis in the optimal position for eventually engaging baby.
  • To strengthen your pelvic floor by doing pelvic tilts while sitting on the birthing ball and rocking your pelvis forward and backward. Or by leaning your upper body on it while your knees are on the floor and alternating arching and rounding your back.
  • To do squats. Squatting during pregnancy (along with Kegel exercises) is one of the best ways to prepare for a natural birth. You can use your birthing ball between your back and the wall for ‘on the wall squats’, hold the ball out in front of you while you squat, or use the ball to balance and stabilize yourself while doing a deep “yogi squat”.

2. Using a birthing ball to get baby head down

If you are planning a home birth, having baby in the optimal position for birth is a requirement for most home birth midwives to determine home birth safe for you. And even for those of you interested in natural birth, a well-positioned baby is going to make a huge difference!

According to this article on breech births, 10% of all babies will be head down by 32 weeks, and over 96% will be head down by 40 weeks. But, believe me, I know that even with the stats on your side, it is definitely on the mind of most mommas to get their babies head down.

That’s where your birthing ball can help. By using your birthing ball throughout your pregnancy, you will be able to encourage baby head down. And even if you haven’t been using one until now, if you are between 28-32 weeks and baby isn’t head down you can start using your birthing ball to get them there.

How to use a birthing ball to get baby in the optimal position for birth?

  • Do pelvic circles on your birthing ball by moving your hips in a figure 8
  • Sit on your yoga ball as much as possible. Your upright posture and open pelvis can help encourage baby to move head down. Light bouncing while sitting on your yoga ball can also help
  • Use your birthing ball to do pelvic tilts by draping your upper body on the ball and placing your knees on the floor. Alternate arching and rounding your back

3. Stretching with your birthing ball

Stretching throughout your pregnancy is a great way to relieve pain and improve your range of motion as your body changes and grows. This makes it easier and more comfortable to get around, sleep, and exercise while pregnant. Which in turn will make your whole pregnancy a lot easier.

Stretching, like in the form of prenatal yoga, is also a great way to relax during pregnancy and prepare mentally for birth by focusing within. While you can certainly stretch without your birthing ball, a birthing ball can be an excellent prop when it comes to stretching during pregnancy.

Some stretches to try with your birthing ball:

  • A modified child’s pose, where your palms and arms are draped on a birthing ball
  • Yogi squats with your birth ball in front of you on the ground. Use the ball to stabilize you in this deep squat
  • Sit with your legs extended into a v position, put your birthing ball between your legs and use it to stabilize yourself as you lean forward to feel the stretch. Let your birthing ball help you maintain a straight back
  • Modified bridge pose with your upper back leaning on the yoga ball (you will be belly up) and your knees bent and feet flat on the floor

4. Relieving aches, pain, and pressure with your birthing ball

Many of the stretches and exercises mentioned above are great for dealing with the aches and pains associated with pregnancy. When using your birthing ball, it often ups the pain-relieving factor of prenatal exercise and stretches.

Most specifically, sitting on a yoga ball instead of a chair while at work, watching TV, or around the house in general, will really help with back pain and relieve the pain and pressure we often feel in our pelvis towards the end of the third trimester.

Additionally, the gentle counter-pressure and give the ball provides to the pelvic region can make a huge difference in any discomfort you may be feeling ‘down there’.

5. Induce labor with your birthing ball

In the days before your due date, and especially once it has come and gone, many of us are ready to try any and everything to naturally induce labor. This can be especially important as a home birth momma because going too far past your due date can cause your midwife to determine a hospital birth is safer for you and baby.

Just like spending time on a birthing ball can be used to get baby into the right position for birth, it can also help initiate labor by coaxing baby to ‘drop’ and engage which can trigger contractions to begin.

How to achieve this? You’ll want to sit on your birthing ball as much as possible, roll your pelvis in circles, and even gently bounce to help gravity get baby lower.

When should I start using a birthing ball?

There’s really no wrong time to start using a birthing ball in pregnancy. Incorporating it into your routine during the first trimester is a great way to get all the benefits right from the start and help deter the discomforts that come later in pregnancy. Using your birthing ball in your prenatal exercises right from the start also sets you up for good habits throughout your pregnancy.

If you’re coming across this article later in your pregnancy, don’t sweat it. Now (whatever that means for you!) is the perfect time to start using your birthing ball. Use it to relieve aches and pains, encourage baby into the right position, and improve your posture and pelvic floor strength. All of this will help you get ready for the big day.

How to choose the right birthing ball?

It can feel easy to just hop on Amazon and order the first exercise ball you see. But I want to make sure you get the right birthing ball for your body. Most important is that when you are sitting on the birthing ball your knees aren’t higher than your hips. Ideally, your knees will be 2-4 inches below your hips.

Whitney, another contributor here at Natural Home Momma, created this handy chart to help you:

Ball Size Your height
45 cm 4’6″- 5′
55 cm 5′- 5’6″
65 cm 5’6″- 5’8″
75 cm 5’9″ and up

Next, you’ll want to check that the ball you choose has a weight limit that can support you. Many exercise balls on the market support 1000+ pounds which means this isn’t usually an issue, but there are some out there with lower thresholds.

How to use a birthing ball during labor and birth?

We’ve talked a lot about using your birthing ball during pregnancy, but your birthing ball’s big moment to shine is often during labor and birth. In fact, this study from the Journal of Midwifery Women’s Health found that the use of a birth ball during labor resulted in significantly lower pain scores than in women who did not use a birth ball.

While in labor, there is really no wrong way to find natural pain relief. Whatever feels good for your body is what you should do! And this includes how you choose to use your birthing ball as a labor prop.

Many of the traditional ways to use a birthing ball to relieve pain are similar to the exercises and stretches we’ve discussed in this article so far, such as:

  • Sitting on the birthing ball and rolling your hips
  • Using the birthing ball to stabilize you in a deep squat
  • Side-lying in a resting position with a birthing ball between your legs to encourage further dilation
  • Draping your upper body on the birthing ball while on your knees rocking.
  • Draping your upper body on the birthing ball while your partner, doula or midwife provides counter-pressure massage to your hips and back

Looking for more info? Read more about why a birthing ball is a must have for labor and birth.

What to do with my birthing ball after birth?

Once birth is over don’t deflate and pack up that birthing ball just yet, momma! My birthing ball actually became a huge staple in our home as a way to calm our newborn. My husband and I quickly discovered that bouncing gently on a yoga ball was the most effective way to get our little one to sleep in the early days and for many months after she was born. I’ve heard this can also be a savior for calming babies with colic.

You can also use your birthing ball as a more comfortable place to sit when your perineum may be sore after birth, and to help you get back in shape postpartum. At first, just sitting on your birthing ball and even using it while breastfeeding is great for your posture and core strength. Once cleared by your midwife, you can find excellent exercises to do with your birthing ball to strengthen and train your core and pelvic floor.

What are you waiting for? Get on your birthing ball, Momma

Well Momma, now you know just why so many people recommend birthing balls as a way to prepare for birth, find comfort in pregnancy, support them during labor, and even find uses for their ball postpartum.

Remember the guidelines mentioned above when choosing your birthing ball, and start using it as soon as you can to reap the benefits.

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