How to Use a Birthing Ball in Labor

4 birthing ball exercises to help with labor pain.

The mere idea of sitting on an unsteady birthing ball during labor (and even pregnancy!) can be daunting. But when used properly, birthing balls, also known as exercise and fitness balls) are excellent tools to sustain a healthy pregnancy and successful labor. Indeed, birthing ball exercises can give you the strength and stability that you need to speed up dilation, move the baby down into the pelvis, and even manage labor and delivery pain. What’s more, birthing balls are affordable, effective, and versatile (you can use them well after birth to help with postpartum pain and breastfeeding, and children tend to think they’re great fun to play with), and you can involve your partner, doula or friend depending on where you choose to deliver. It’s no wonder, then, that so many midwives and birth doulas  (myself included) recommend them to their clients.

So if you are getting ready to welcome baby earth side, here are 4 birthing ball positions to get you comfortable and help you manage labor pain.

  1. Rocking: sitting on the birth ball, let your pelvis rock back and forth, and side to side. This will help shift the pelvis into good spinal and pelvic alignment and can help with discomfort between contractions. Simply sitting on the ball can also provide soft support to the perineum when hard surfaces are no longer comfortable.
  2. Leaning against the ball: if exhaustion is about to kick in, lean onto your birth ball. The best way to do that is by standing up, placing the ball onto your hospital or birth-center bed, and leaning forward to hang onto the ball. Tipping the belly forward takes the pressure off of the lower back and can guide the baby deeper into the pelvis. While you are resting on the ball, your birth partner or doula can massage your back to provide extra relief.
  3. Leaning against the ball, on all fours: put the birthing ball on the floor and lean against it while on your knees. This can also help with back pain. For extra stability, you can wrap your arms around the ball and hug it. There too, your partner or doula can massage your back to take some of the pain away. With this position, gravity pushes the baby’s head down against the cervix, which may help speed up dilation.
  4. Bouncing: gently bouncing is a great way to cope with pain in between contractions. You may find that you naturally feel the need to sway and bounce. Use that time to figure out what your body instinctively wants to do, to trust that it knows exactly what to do to help bring you comfort.

As mentioned before, birthing balls are versatile, and these are just a few ways you can use them during labor and delivery. Make sure that your partner or doula is close by to support you and avoid mishaps and accidents. Finally, let your body lead you to the most secure and comfortable birthing experience: it knows what you and your baby need and will be able to use this tool intuitively.

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