Three pregnant women press their backs against an exercise ball.
Get relief from discomfort with an exercise ball. (For Spectrum Health)

The birth ball, usually known as an exercise ball, is a great tool to have available in labor.

There are many ways to use the ball and we will talk about some of them.

Most pregnant women find the balls comfortable to sit on during a time when chairs are often uncomfortable.

Many mothers-to-be tend to naturally sway or rock on the ball. It provides comfort and relaxation to the pelvic area.

Birth balls can be used in pregnancy, during labor and well after for exercise and play.

If you are buying a ball, go to the exercise department of your local store. Most have a height recommendation on them, so buy accordingly.

What can using the ball do to help in labor?

Here are a few things it can do:

  • Help the mother to feel comfortable and relax

  • Shorten labor and make it more efficient

How might it shorten labor or make it more efficient?

Using the birth ball helps open mom’s pelvis wider and uses gravity to help the baby descend more effectively. These two things may decrease the length of labor.

What do you do with the ball?

There are lots of useful positions, but these three may be most helpful:

1. Sit on the ball. Sit and rock, or sway, which helps the baby descend into the pelvis better. This is a great position to have your partner massage your back. Or, sit on the ball and then lean on the bed, table or your support partner. This helps mom relax, yet feel supported.

2. Kneel and lean over the birth ball. This allows the weight of baby to fall forward and can greatly reduce the pressure on mom’s back. This is great if mom is feeling contractions in her back. She can also sway her hips, which again, helps the baby descend in the pelvis.

3. Stand and lean over the ball. This is like the kneeling and leaning position, only mom is standing. This can be great for having a swaying rhythm while using the ball. The ball can be placed on the bed or a chair for mom to lean over.