Exercises in pregnancy

The pregnancy ball: benefits and exercise videos to get you started

What is pregnancy ball? What are the benefits demonstrated in sweet expectation and during labor and, above all, how should it be used? Here are all the explanations, tips for choosing it and two exercise videos to try at home.

What is a pregnancy ball?

The pregnancy ball (also called birthing ball or birth ball) is not much different from the normal exercise balls found in the gym (fitball or gymball).

In practice, it is a large inflatable ball , burst-proof, made of PVC (latex-free and therefore hypoallergenic), more robust and resistant than a fitness ball. Furthermore, it is usually non-slip, to prevent the risk of falls.

This special pregnancy fitball can be used while pregnant to perform exercises aimed at toning the pelvic floor . Furthermore, it is made available to mothers in many delivery rooms and birth centers, where it is offered to facilitate labor .

What are the benefits of using a pregnancy ball?

Regularly performing exercises with the pregnancy ball helps you gain more confidence in your pelvis and pelvis , which is essential during labor.

Additionally, it can help reduce back pain and other discomforts related to poor posture. Also for this reason, the birthing ball is used in many preparatory, pilates and yoga courses for pregnant women. To obtain these benefits, it is also recommended to use the ball instead of a chair, while working at a desk or relaxing while watching a movie.

As far as childbirth is concerned , the ball naturally encourages the movements and oscillations of the pelvis, helping the woman to find the best and least painful position during labor and favoring the descent of the baby into the birth canal.

Thanks to these characteristics, the use of the pregnancy ball can reduce the  pain of contractions  (especially if used regularly a couple of months before giving birth), relieve anxiety and  shorten labor (by about an hour , according to the Education).

How to choose the ball for pregnancy?

1. Security

The birthing ball must first of all be safe . It is therefore important to check that it is anti-burst : this ensures that if the fitball should puncture or break during pregnancy or labor, it will slowly deflate instead of bursting like a balloon.

Furthermore, it must be solid and resistant, in order to be able to support the weight of the mother (and her baby!) without risk. The best quality pregnancy fitballs are tested to support a weight of 300kg .

Another important feature is the type of material used, which must be non-toxic and hypoallergenic , and therefore free of phthalates or latex.

Finally, it is better to prefer non-slip balls , even if in general it is advisable to always use them on a carpet, for greater safety.

2. Measure

Choosing the right size is essential to be able to use an exercise ball correctly in pregnancy. Regular fitballs usually have a standard size.

For pregnancy and especially for labour, there are very specific measures to take into consideration, which must be chosen based on the mother’s stature:

  • diameter of 55 cm for a height of less than 155 cm
  • diameter of 65 cm for a height between 155 and 173 cm
  • diameter of 75 cm for a height greater than 173 cm

This is because, when the woman is sitting on the ball with her feet flat on the floor, her hips should be raised about 10cm above her knees . This slightly elevated position carries the baby’s weight forward, relieving back pain and general discomfort felt during pregnancy.

This posture also keeps the pelvis open and takes pressure off the lower back during labor and contractions.

3. Accessories

The exercise ball will tend to deflate progressively with use. It is therefore important to also purchase a compatible pump , so that it can be inflated as needed. Attention: Avoid inflating it too much or too little, otherwise it will not be able to be used properly. Air is sufficient when the ball is hard, but yields slightly to pressure.

To ensure that the diameter achieved during inflation is correct, some pregnancy fitballs are sold with a tape to be used as a measuring tape.

How to start using the pregnancy exercise ball

To perform the exercises, place the ball on a carpet , near a wall, sofa, or surface that you can lean against if you feel too unstable or to make it easier to get up. If it’s your first time (especially if you’re in your last quarter), don’t use the ball alone, but make sure there’s someone nearby to support you. Naturally, it is absolutely not recommended to use this tool in case of dizziness or malaise .

Wear comfortable clothing and non-slip socks , or do the exercises with bare feet .

Sit on the ball with your legs apart and your feet about 60 cm apart, so you can find the right stability . Once seated, place your hands on your knees and begin to rock your pelvis back and forth or sideways, with a light movement.

Once you are confident, you can continue with the exercises presented below.

How to use the pregnancy ball during labor

Due to its size and flexibility, the use of the birthing ball reduces pressure on the pelvic floor compared to a chair and can help the woman find a comfortable position during labor.

Being naturally unstable, the ball lends itself to following the woman’s instinctive swings and movements.

During the first stage of labor, sitting astride the ball will allow the woman to move her pelvis back and forth, side to side or in a circle.

As labor progresses (and particularly once the “pushing” stage is reached), the mother may use the ball for support while kneeling on the floor or bed .

Most hospital wards and birth centers make pregnancy balls available to expectant mothers to use during labor. The midwife will assist you throughout the delivery, suggesting the best positions  to make the most of the benefits of the ball.

How to use the postpartum pregnancy ball : exercise videos

After giving birth, it may be more comfortable to sit on the ball instead of a firm chair, particularly if the area between the vagina and anus (perineum) is sore. In this case, it is better to slightly deflate the ball to make it softer and thus take the pressure off any stitches.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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