Birth Balls and Peanut Balls
Keeping upright helps the baby to come down into the pelvis in a good position, especially if you have made the space with balance and resting wisely in the lead up to your birth journey. Using gravity does not mean you have to be standing, dancing all of the time, though slow dancing with someone you like or love can feel wonderful in labour. Sitting on a birth ball is great throughout pregnancy, labour and beyond.
Birth balls are amazing (peanut balls are great too) but it is important to get the right size for you:
If you are above average height or weight, it is better to have a larger ball than a smaller one. If the ball is too small it causes the pelvis to tilt backwards but we want a forward or anterior tilt, so the knees should be below the hips or at most level with them as shown.
Birth balls effectively put you into an excellent squatting position with your knees level to or lower than your hips which helps the baby to nestle forward into the hammock of your abdomen, rather than be pressed back to back against your spine. If you can, sit on a birth ball rather than an office chair when working at the computer, sit on one or drape yourself over one whilst relaxing at home as well. This way you will get birth fit without really realising it, as always you are moving slightly on the ball and engaging your muscles to keep you stable. This builds up strength subtly over time that can really make all the difference when you have your baby (and after in carrying them around as they just keep getting heavier and heavier).
Birth balls are also great to lean and rest on. You can put them on a bed and lean over them on all fours, you can do the same on the floor. They are great for resting in stillness, as well as for movement. To make them extra comfy put a pillow, scarf or blanket on top as shown below.
You can also put them on a bed and lean on them whilst you are standing on the floor, to rest, perhaps to rock.
You can use a birth ball to help you with kneeling side lunges, to rest and rock and roll.
Birth balls are great in pregnancy, during labour and after birth too. They are fantastic for rocking or bouncing a baby and are a soft comfortable place to sit after birth. When they are born, babies seem to know when you sit down and often they don't like it. The birth ball however seems to have magical powers, so you can sit and rock and roll and bounce. The baby is happy and you can be comfortable and exercising gently. You can usually pick them up for around £15-20 and they will sell easily again when you have finished with them. What's not to love?!
Here are some movement ideas you could try on your birth ball. Maybe rocking in different directions to help a baby settle into and move through the pelvis. Front to back, side to side, circles in both directions big or small and figures of eights both ways as well (this one is a bit like juggling, if you think too much you sometimes get a bit stuck, you can see a moment where I did in the video. Don't worry, it doesn't matter just move in a nice flow that feels right for you). If you feel nervous on a ball, start small and build up to bigger movements. You can have a copanion stand behind you and support you or stand to the front and hold your hands. You can also use a bar or surface to hold on to or a scarf held through a door for stability.
If larger movements like the ones above feel a little daunting, start with bouncing. Bouncing is also really excellent for soothing babies when you are holding them after they are born.
If a baby is struggling to rotate and descend due to being asynclytic or posterior and the birthing person has two trusted companions, this technique could be tried. This is quite energetic and vigorous, so other more gentle things can be tried first. A companion stands either side to help catch and push and catch the birthing person as they rock side to side like an enthusiastic pendulum. The knees are opened out, the soles of the feet are together and the birthing person hugs the ball. I have shown the technique here solo so my feet are not together as they should be as I was having to balance myself. It is far nicer, more comfortable, safe and effective with two friends by your side.
Not all birthing units have a peanut ball or they may not have one readily available. Ask your doula as they may carry one in their bag, if not, you can pick them up for around £12-25. They are great for leaning aganst when reading in bed as well as supporting your legs in different positions. As a doula I have found they are great for young children to bounce and play on whilst I sit on a birth ball to rock or bounce a baby or so that a parent or caregiver can rock or bounce a baby without having to fight the toddler or child for the larger birth ball (they are super fun for all ages and easy to inflate and deflate to make space when not needed) .
Peanut to Open the Inlet:
To help open the inlet of the pelvis, external rotation and abduction of the legs is helpful - This means knees apart and feet together. You can rest like this with the use of the peanut ball
Flying Cow Girl:
The peanut ball can also be used in the position known as the Flying Cow Girl, Read more about it here.
Peanut to Open the Mid Pelvis:
Having the knees and feet apart in a neutral position can feel comfortable and help the whole pelvis have space when resting
Peanut to Open the Outlet:
To help open the outlet of the pelvis, internal rotation and adduction of the legs is helpful - This means knees together and feet apart (contrary to the many cries I have heard of open your legs to make space for the baby, this infact closes the space of the pelvic outlet for the baby, so rest wisely and follow your own instinctive movements)