Some have round ones...
And some have peanutty ones....
And both have an excellent place in the birthing room.
But wait, let's rewind a bit... you know, that part of your life where you are mother-but-not-yet-birthed? The time between times when your body is busy growing a little human? Ah yes, pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a great time to break out that exercise ball. It makes a doula just giddy with excitement when a mama will grab out her exercise ball and sit on that instead of allow herself to slouch into the couch (which is horrible for babies position). That's right, sitting upright on a ball during pregnancy is great for:
- encouraging baby to be in a great position for labor and birth
- decreasing backache by encouraging good posture
- increasing elasticity and circulation to the perineum, which decreases the chances of tearing or an episiotomy
- increasing circulation to your lower extremities, which decreases the risk for vericose veins and edema
- opening up your pelvis to encourage baby to settle lower in your pelvis before your labor even begins.
- encouraging stronger abdominal walls and obliques, which helps support baby/uterus and decreases the risk of diastasis recti.
Like I said, we doulas get downright giddy when we see you hanging out on top of big old bouncy balls. So, use them when you're watching TV, playing on the computer, sitting at your desk at work, sitting at the kitchen table during meals, or any other seated time.
LABOR AND BIRTH
Oh now we're getting onto the better good stuff. Now remember all of those great benefits that sitting on a ball had for your pregnancy? Well, that carries over into birth.
Sitting on a ball during labor allows for mom to make all these broad sweeping and swirling, bouncing and rotating motions with her hips...
It's like doing the hula, while sitting on your bum and not tiring your legs out. This, in turn, allows baby ample room and movement to rotate themselves into the best position for an optimal exit strategy. It also allows for openness, very similar to the toilet, allowing for baby to descend into the pelvis in a chin-to-chest position.
Kneeling and leaning on the ball as well as standing and leaning on the ball can also be very helpful. It helps to open the pelvis and has all of the benefits of all fours and forward leaning positions, while allowing you to release and relax by not putting undue stress on your wrists, hands, and arms.
This allows for more complete relaxation. I think I hear some of you exclaiming right about now, "lots of mobility and stability, more relaxing and productive, and I get to look awesome with a birthing ball in tow? Where do I sign up?!"
In fact, it's so nifty that it helps reduce cesarean rates, pushing times, and the need for pitocin if a mama chooses to get an epidural.
AFTER BABY ARRIVES
Well, if you started ballin' in pregnancy, hopefully by the time baby comes you feel the same as we do: that exercise/birth ball was indispensable. It can continue to help you postpartum, fo' sho!
The first thing you can do is use it as it was originally intended to be used - for exercise. Using the ball for oblique and, later, abdominal exercises will help whip your trunk into strength and shape. In the long run, strong ab muscles will help decrease the incidence of long-term back problems that seem to plague mamas who are constantly carrying and holding, hipping and juggling little kiddos.
You can also use the ball to help stretch your body. This is great even immediately postpartum. Regular stretches will help minimize the chances of getting nursing back and allow your body a safe and aligned space to recover quickly from birth. In fact, speaking of breastfeeding/nursing, sitting on the floor and leaning back against the ball as it is supported against the wall will help mom with proper posture during breastfeeding.
Finally, you can use that gorgeous pregnancy lovin', birth rockin', exercise nabbin' ball to bounce-bounce-bounce your little peanut to comfort and sleep.