The Birthing Ball can facilitate position changes and be used as a comfort tool for women in labor. A woman can sit on it and rock or lightly bounce to decrease perineal pressure. She can also lean over the ball, allowing the baby to hang down, in order to decrease any back pain or back labor.
Finding the right birthing ball
The ball size that generally works best with laboring mothers is 65 cm. This size may vary somewhat depending upon the user's height. Women who are tall, 5' 10" or taller, may prefer the larger 75cm ball.
Inflate the ball until it is slightly firm, yet still "gives" slightly to the touch. To take the worry and guesswork out of the inflation process, just make a mark on the wall at the correct height for the ball you are using (65cm, etc.). Then place the ball next to the wall and inflate it to the mark.
Inflated, the ball should be large enough for you to sit on with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle. Over time, your ball may lose a little air - just add more to maintain the correct size.
Caring for your birthing ball
Birthing balls are easily cleaned with plain soap and water. For an all-over scrub, place the ball in tub or shower, wipe clean using a soapy cloth, then rinse.
Observe a few simple precautions to safeguard your birthing ball. Keep sharp objects away from the ball, and don't store it in temperatures over 80 degrees because heat can shrink the ball.
Balance safely on your birthing ball
Wiggle those toes! Bare feet provide important traction when you are balancing on the birthing ball. If you wear socks or shoes, be sure they're of the non-slip variety.
Climb aboard! Hold the birthing ball steady with your hands as you sit down. To increase your stability, plant your feet flat on the floor about two feet apart. It's also a good idea to have a spotter (partner or friend) stand behind you ready to assist should you lose your balance. Since pregnancy shifts the center of gravity, it may take a while before you feel stable.
Using a birthing ball during pregnancy
You don't have to wait until you're nearing term to break out your birthing ball! Start getting familiar with it right away.
Here's what you stand to gain:
Conditioning -Gentle exercise on the birthing ball can strengthen the abdominal "pushing" muscles, as well as the lower-back muscles that minimize back pain. So starting early with the birthing ball is a plus.
Physical Relief -Kneeling over the ball can ease back strain and encourage the baby to settle into an optimal position. Comfort -During the last few weeks of pregnancy, especially, the birthing ball is often more comfortable than a chair or bed - not to mention, easier to get onto and off of!
Relaxation -The ball can be used for massage and general relaxation as well as for practicing birth positions.
Using a birthing ball during labor and delivery
During labor, the birthing ball really comes into its own, providing support and easing discomfort. It may even hasten the delivery.
The ball is easier to get onto and to rise from than a regular chair, couch or the floor - one big plus! And it adapts to your needs, accommodating a variety of sitting, kneeling and squatting positions.
Comfort and convenience is only the beginning. Other benefits may include:
Natural rhythm -The birthing ball allows a natural back and forth swaying movement and encourages the relaxation of muscles used during labor. this natural rhythm may reduce pain and stress.
Readjustment -The ball also encourages position changing (rocking the pelvis, shifting weight, etc.) during labor.
Support -By reducing stress on the hands and wrists, the ball can enable you to remain longer in the hands and knees position.
Alignment -Sitting on the birthing ball helps keep the baby properly aligned in the pelvis.
Movement -The ball encourages pelvic mobility.
Assistance -The birthing ball works with gravity to encourage the baby's descent into the pelvis.
Relaxation -Sitting on warm compresses placed upon the ball eases pelvic floor aching and helps relax the pelvic floor.
Dilation -The birthing ball may speed up dilation and effacement, improving the progress of labor.
Use a birthing ball after the delivery
Don't stash the birthing ball after you deliver. It offers fitness, relaxation and fun for the whole family!
You may be impatient to get back in shape. If so, your birthing/exercise ball may help speed the process along. Pop an instructional video into the VCR, settle onto the ball and get started, stretching and strengthening your upper and lower body. Ask your physician, just to be sure, but this type of exercise may be done before returning to the gym.
The birthing ball can also help calm a fussy or colicky baby. Once you are securely seated on the ball, take the baby in your arms. While patting him, bounce gently, letting the rhythmic motion soothe and quiet the baby. Or while standing, place the infant stomach down on the ball, hold securely and bounce gently. The soft pressure may ease a stomachache.