A birthing ball is an accessory used to provide comfort during and after pregnancy, as well as to assist women during the labor of childbirth. A birthing ball is a large rubber ball that is strong enough to support the weight of large adult. Birthing balls were originally designed for use in physical therapy to promote strength training, stretching exercises and endurance.
Before labor, a birthing ball can be used to improve or eliminate backaches that are common during pregnancy. Sitting on a birthing ball while pregnant helps a woman to maintain the proper posture to support her growing asymmetrical body. This posture encouraged by the birthing ball also helps to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, which prevents the occurrence of back problems throughout pregnancy. Sitting on the birthing ball before the child is born also relieves leg cramping and has a calming effect.
The use of a birthing ball before labor prepares the body for giving birth. It widens and flexes the pelvic bones and joints, helping the baby descend into the birth canal more easily. It also strengthens the muscles of the pelvic floor, which are responsible for the pushing stage of childbirth. A birthing ball should be used daily to reap all its benefits when preparing for labor.
The use of a birthing ball during labor helps to relieve discomfort and pain associated with contractions, as well as providing focus for the laboring mother. When a woman is in labor, she is encouraged to rock her pelvis back and forth to encourage the descent of the baby into the pelvic area. The birthing ball allows a woman to rock without having to stand, which provides optimum balance and stability. Straddling the birthing ball also helps to align the body to the proper position for a smoother birth.
Another use of the birthing ball during labor is to ease back labor. Back labor usually occurs when the baby is in a posterior position, which means that he or she is facing forward, or is "sunny side up." Ideally, babies should be born head-down, facing backward, in an anterior position. A posterior position causes excruciating contractions felt in the mother’s back. Leaning on a birthing ball with knees on the floor helps to relieve back labor, while at the same time encouraging the baby to turn to a more ideal position.
After delivery, a birthing ball can be used as a toning tool for returning to a pre-pregnancy form. It can also help to soothe the incisions from episiotomy or tears that sometimes result from delivery by providing a cushiony seat. A birthing ball can also benefit the newborn baby by relieving colic. Placing the colicky baby on the birthing ball on his stomach often relieves the discomfort.