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Benefits of using a birth ball in pregnancy & birth

If you want a more comfortable, smoother birth, you’ll want to know all about this ‘secret weapon’! 


pregnant woman sitting on birth ball

Really, a birth ball is just an exercise ball, a yoga ball. Nothing special.  But it can be the perfect tool for you to get birth ready!

Why a birth ball?

Ok, let's have a look at the benefits:

  • Help balance ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the pelvic area so baby can settle into an optimal position

  • Used during birth, it can help baby into a better position

  • Helps strengthen your lower back

  • Relieves back pain during pregnancy and birth

  • Helps to open the pelvis and give baby space

  • May help you have an easier, shorter labour

  • May reduce pain during birth

  • May increase blood flow to the uterus

  • Reduces the likelihood of needing an epidural or C-section

  • Reduces stress and anxiety

  • Allows freedom of movement


Well there are two main ways a birth ball can help with all these benefits:

  1. Can help to relax pelvic muscles, allow your baby more space, helping your baby into an optimal position.  If your baby is in a good position, then it’ll help birth start, and labour to progress

  2. It allows freedom of movement during pregnancy and birth.  Moving and swaying during birth will not only help your comfort (eases lower back etc), but will also help your baby to move through your pelvis

What size ball?

You need to get an exercise ball that's the right size for your height, so that your feet can sit flat on the floor.  Your knees should be slightly lower (about 10cm lower)  than your hips when you sit on it (this will give your baby more space in your uterus). As a general guide, if you are:

  • up to 1.73m (5ft 8in) in height - use a 65cm ball

  • taller than 1.73m (5ft 8in) in height - use a 75cm ball

A birthing ball will take your weight, whatever your size. Good quality exercise balls are pressure-tested to support weights up to 300kg.

Pregnant woman sitting on birth ball

How to use it:

  • For stability, always have your feet flat on the floor when sitting on your ball

  • It’s best to have bare feet when sitting on the ball (or wear anti-slip socks or slippers)

  • Use a soft folded blanket, cushion or yoga mat under your knees and lean over your ball

  • You can lean over and hug your ball while on your knees

  • Place your ball on a higher surface like a table, and stand and lean over the ball

So let’s have a look at how you can use the ball during pregnancy and birth:

Using a birth ball during pregnancy:

Birth balls are an excellent way to prepare your body ready for birth.  It’s easy!  Just spend time every day sitting on your ball.  Whether you’re watching TV, reading a book, listening to music or working at your desk, it’s easy to spend time sitting on your ball. 

How does it compare to sitting on a chair?  Well, sitting on a birth ball means that you’ll sit upright, as you can’t slouch.  It forces you to stay balanced and so will strengthen your core muscles.  The ball is also soft on your bottom, and moulds to your movements, allowing freedom of movement.  It'll help support and open your pelvis, loosen and relax ligaments, and support your lower back.

With your feet flat on the floor, while sitting on your ball, make some big circles with your hips.  Sway and rock your hips.  This will help to loosen ligaments and relax pelvic muscles.

You can also get on your knees and lean over your ball, so you’re kind of hugging it and resting.  This way you can sway your hips side to side, make circles and rock forwards and back.

How using a ball in pregnancy helps your baby:

Sitting and swaying on the ball will give your baby more space to move into an optimal position ready for birth.  It’ll help your baby’s head move further down into your pelvis as you get closer to birth.

Being on your knees and leaning over your ball will help make the use of gravity and allow your baby into an optimal position, bring your baby out of ‘back-to-back’ position. 

When your posture is improved, and your pelvis is aligned, your baby has a better chance of getting into an optimal position for birth.

Pregnant woman sitting on a birth ball working at her desk

Using a birth ball during birth:

Whether you’re having a home birth or hospital birth, you can have your birth ball with you and enjoy all the wonderful benefits.  Some hospitals have birth balls, but to be honest, it’s so much better to take your own ball as it’s yours, perfect for you and your size (plus you know it's clean!).

Using a birth ball during labour can help you find more comfortable positions.  It might be uncomfortable sitting on a chair, and so you might prefer the softness of a ball to sit on.  

Movement during birth really does help your baby’s journey through your pelvis, and using your ball will encourage movement, and give you that freedom to move your body to your own rhythm. 

Just you try sitting on a birth ball and NOT moving.  It’s literally impossible! 

Also, sitting on your ball will help you make friends with gravity!  Upright positions are amazing for birth as they open up your pelvis.

In the early stage of birth, prodromal labour is a possibility (this is where you might be having contractions for a long period of time, but the progress is slow, and it might stop and start over a few days), and sometimes this happens because of baby’s position.  If you can use the ball leading up to birth, and during the early stages of labour, moving your hips in circles, and swaying, it’ll help move your baby’s head down onto your cervix, and give you and your baby the best chance for a smoother birth.

If you’re experiencing back labour (contractions in your lower back, or pain and aches in your lower back during a contraction), leaning over your ball can really help release the pressure on your spine and pelvis, and gravity can move your baby away from your spine, and help you feel more comfortable.

Some birth positions to try with your ball:

(remember: upright and forward leaning positions open up your pelvis and use gravity to help your baby move down):

Sit on your ball - You can move the ball back up to a wall to secure you in place, and have your partner on the floor or a chair in front of you.  Or sit on your ball with your partner sitting on a chair behind you, massaging your back

On all fours - have a yoga mat in your hospital bag and kneel on the floor, leaning over your ball.  You can move, sway and circle your hips, or rock back and forth.  Your partner can massage your back or give you some counterpressure on your sacrum.  

Kneeling - you can kneel on the floor, sitting on back on your heels and have the ball in between your knees and lean over the ball to reap the benefits of a upright and forward leaning position. Great for resting!

pregnant woman giving birth on a birth ball with partner massaging her back

Birth ball for pain relief?

Yep, that's right!  Using a birth ball is a wonderful way to alleviate pain during birth. Let's look at the evidence:

In 2015 four randomised and controlled trials were combined, where people were randomly assigned to either use a birth ball during birth, or not use one.  220 people took part in the trials, all without using any other pain relief. 

The results showed that using a birth ball can significantly lower labor pain. Three studies found that pain scores significantly dropped when people were using a birth ball. And the fourth study showed that pain scores dropped when use of a birth ball during labor was also alternated with using a warm bath.

It's defo worth having a birth ball in your 'toolbox' of comfort measures for birth!

Using a ball with your newborn baby:

Do you know, that sitting, bouncing and swaying on your ball with your baby in your arms, really can help soothe and relax your baby?  It’s a great way to strengthen your core muscles too!

Baby cuddling newborn baby on a birth ball

So, go and buy a big bouncy birth ball and start using it NOW! 

Ok, here’s a recap:

  • Choose a ball size perfect for your height

  • Use your birth ball during your pregnancy to get your body and your baby birth ready!

  • Take your birth ball to hospital (or have it ready for your home birth)

  • Use your ball during your birth, to give you lots of movement and comfort

  • Enjoy bouncing and swaying on your ball with your little baby in your arms

You can cover your birthing ball with a soft birth ball cover like the ones I make! These are handmade by me using soft fabric so they're cosy for your bottom and stops your skin sticking to it. They're designed to fit all ball sizes, as they have elastic tied bottom. They have handles too, for easy transport and carrying. Contact me if you're interested, and I can make one especially for you. Pop a comment below, or send me an email, and I'll get back to you with all the details.

Are you preparing for birth? You can book me as your birth doula, arrange a birth coaching call, or book a HypnoBirthing course with me (online or in person)

Don’t forget to follow me on social media!

Feel free to send this to a pregnant friend 🌸

Happy birthing!  

Love, Miranda 💗



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