How to use birthing balls in pregnancy and labour 2024

birthing ball

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

You've probably heard a lot about birthing balls and you might be wondering what the benefits are of them and how to use a birthing ball in pregnancy and labour.

If you're thinking about using a birth exercise ball for pregnancy and labour, Mother&Baby have everything you need to know, including what they are, the benefits of using one and how to get the most out of one during your pregnancy.

What is a birthing ball?

Often used during pregnancy and labour, a birthing ball is a large inflatable ball that's similar to an exercise ball.

They're designed to help reduce pain and discomfort through pregnancy and during labour and can even be used after birth.

What are the benefits of using a birthing ball?

A birthing ball isn't just for labour - in fact, there are many benefits to using a birthing ball during your pregnancy, as well as afterwards.

Not only can a birth ball help reduce back pain in pregnancy, as well as pelvic pain, but it is also said to ease labour pains and reduce the pain of contractions. It can also help you move your baby into the right position for an easier birth.

If you find it difficult to get comfortable or sit for long periods of time then you may find sitting on a birthing ball is the solution. This also helps open up your pelvic muscles in preparation for labour.

The added bonus is that every time you sit on your birthing ball your core is getting a workout too - which will not only help during labour but also with your recovery afterwards.

What size birthing ball do I need?

Knowing what size to buy can be difficult, yet this is the one thing you need to get right. One Born Every Minute midwife, Hana Pauls from Liverpool Women’s Hospital explains:

“You want to be able to sit with your feet comfortably flat on the ground. If you’re having to tip toe, it’s too big. Likewise, if you feel too close to the ground and your knees are positioned higher than your tummy, it’s too low."

“Ensure the ball can take your weight. Instructions on the box can tell you the maximum weight.”

Ideally, your knees should be about four inches lower than your hips when you sit on it, so as a rough guide, if you’re shorter than 5ft 8, it’s best to get a 65cm ball. If you’re taller than this, opt for a 75cm ball.

How to use a birthing ball and how can I use it in labour

Birthing balls can be used at any point during pregnancy and for many different reasons along the way. From around 32 weeks pregnant, you can start to do exercises with your birthing ball to help prepare your body for labour, relieve your muscles and even ease stress.

Using a birth ball throughout pregnancy and labour is an excellent way to help your pelvis and baby get into the optimal position for birth.

Birthing balls are wonderful at really opening up the pelvis and alleviating discomfort in your spine, hips and lower back.

Circling the hips

1. Ensure you have someone standing behind you to steady you, then sit on the ball, opening your legs wide with your toes pointing outward so your feet are at what we call a 10 to 2 position.

2. From here, keeping your upper body still, imagine that you are sitting inside a barrel and have a cloth tied around your hips. Without using your hands, you’re going to circle your hips to clean the inside of the barrel.

3. This type of circling the hips is especially helpful in getting your baby into a favourable position and for bringing the head down. This helps put an even pressure on the neck of the womb to open it up.

4. Carry on circling on the ball for 20 minutes – ten minutes one way, then change direction.

Other exercises to try include bouncing on the ball, doing squats whilst raising the birthing ball over your head, or doing sit-ups with your legs resting on top of the ball.

The below positions are great examples of how you could use a birthing ball in labour:

1. This position of leaning on the ball whilst kneeling helps to give you support. It also allows you to rock back and forth with ease.

2. From a supported kneeling position on the floor, wrap your arms around the birthing ball while lifting your bottom slightly. Then, slowly rock your pelvis from side to side.

3. While in a standing position, lean over your birthing ball as it balances on your bed, using it for your support. ​

In the below video, nurse and fellow mum Haley walks you through the best positions to help manage contractions. At the same time, Haley is ensuring you have an easier and faster birth.

The best birthing balls to buy 2024

Best birthing ball overall

Best birthing ball Natural Birth + Fitness Ball + Pump
Price: £18.99 (was £20.99)

birthease.co.uk

The Natural Birth & Fitness Ball & Pump, crafted in Italy by birthing ball specialists, stands out for its premium quality and thoughtful design. Its anti-burst construction ensures safety, gradually deflating in the unlikely event of a puncture to prevent any harm to you or your baby. Tested rigorously up to 300kgs, this latex-free ball guarantees durability and reliability.

"This is a great product," noted our mum tester. "I'm 5'5" and it's the right size for me, just make sure you inflate it as far as you can - your hips should be higher than your knees." She also noted, "I've just been on a course for calm birthing and the instructor had exactly the same ball - so it should be good!"

With its non-slip surface, two plugs and a convenient hand pump, this birthing ball caters to both safety and comfort, making it an essential companion for expectant parents.

Read our Birth-ease Ball review here.

Pros

  • Three size options depending on your height
  • Hand pump including
  • Measuring tape included
  • Versatile
  • Durable

Cons

  • More difficult to inflate than some others on the list
Dimensions:55, 65 or 75cm
Colour:Pale gold
Pump included:Hand pump
Weight:1.4kg
  • 8 page instruction book
  • 1 x hand pump
  • 1 x inflatable birth ball
  • 1 x measuring tape

Best birthing ball with guidebook

Best birthing ball BABYGO® Birthing Ball
Price: $29.99

The BABYGO Birthing Ball offers more than just a comfortable seat; it’s a holistic tool designed to support expecting mothers through various stages of pregnancy and beyond. With its 100-page pregnancy book packed with valuable information on nutrition, labour advice, and exercise, it's the complete package.

Reviewers suggest that it relieves pain and alleviates discomfort, while the guidebook is a treasure trove of pregnancy advice. It's not just about comfort during pregnancy; the ball will continue to be useful post-birth, too.

Pros

  • Strong and durable
  • Easy to inflate
  • Comes with a guidebook
  • Different colour options

Cons

  • Some reviewers did not receive a pump
Dimensions:65 or 75cm
Colour:6 choices
Pump included:No
Weight:1.8kg
  • 1 x Exercise, birth and recovery plan book

Best birthing ball seat

Best birthing ball CUB Support for Pregnancy, Labour and Birth
Price: $125.00

The CUB Support for Pregnancy, Labour and Birth is a versatile birthing tool, blending the functionality of a birth ball with that of a birth stool. Designed by a midwife, it aims to offer comfortable support, whether you're at home, in a birthing unit or in hospital.

Reviewers praised the CUB for its versatility, comfort, and support during labour, with some hailing it as a"game-changer". While some encountered issues like air leakage during delivery, overall, it's seen as a valuable tool for preparing and experiencing childbirth with comfort and ease.

Pros

  • Wide stable base
  • Can be adjusted in height and weight
  • Invented specifically for labour and birth
  • Versatile
  • Can be used post-birth

Cons

  • Pump could be higher quality
  • Not as comfortable as some other options
Dimensions:41 x 31 x 16cm
Colour:Teal
Pump included:Yes
Weight:2.5kg
  • 1 x manual
  • 1 x inflation pump
  • 1 x cotton storage bag

Best durable birthing ball

Although it isn't technically a birthing ball, the Trideer Exercise Ball is available in five sizes and two colours and five sizes, and reviewers love it for its durability and strength. With a quick-inflation foot pump included, along with two air stoppers, it offers convenience and peace of mind thanks to its quality.

Some reviewers have noted minor issues such as sizing discrepancies and faulty pumps, but overall, the product receives high praise for its comfort and suitability for various uses, including during pregnancy and as an office chair.

Pros

  • Easy to inflate
  • Sturdy and durable
  • Versatile
  • Different sizes to suit different needs

Cons

  • Some reviewers said it can lose air over time
  • Not as firm as some other options
Dimensions:38-45cm up to 78 - 85cm
Colour:Teal and black
Pump included:Yes
Weight:0.8kg
  • Slow deflation
  • Non slip surface
  • Extra thick and durable
  • Easy to inflate

Best birthing ball set

Best birthing ball Tumaz Birth Ball or Exercise Ball

Rrp: $34.99

Price: $32.99

Crafted with premium anti-burst material, this Tumaz Birth Ball is high-quality and comes well-reviewed. Alongside the ball, the set includes anti-slip socks and a peri bottle, tackling a few other things on your hospital bag list.

Most reviewers found this birthing ball indispensable for relieving back pain, and the inclusion of the peri bottle and socks was an added bonus.

Pros

  • Comes with all the essentials
  • Supports prenatal and postnatal
  • High-quality
  • Easy to inflate
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Some reviewers reported that it may lose air over time
  • Pump could be higher quality
Dimensions:58-65cm
Colour:3 choices
Pump included:Yes
Weight:1.9kg
  • 1 x peri bottle
  • 1 x birthing ball
  • 1 x anti slip socks
  • 2 x air plugs
  • 1 x foot pump
  • 1 x plug remover
  • 1 x yoga strap

Best birthing ball with pre and postnatal exercises

This nbf Birthing Ball is crafted from heavyweight PVC, boasting superior strength, firmness, and safety compared to standard gym balls. The eight-page instruction booklet features a comprehensive set of prenatal and postnatal exercises, foetal positioning diagrams, pelvic floor techniques, labour support tips, and natural birth positions to put your mind at ease.

Our parent tester dubbed it "the most comfy thing to sit on", noting that it's great to use around the house and that she wished she'd got one earlier.

Read our Natural Birth Fitness birthing ball review here.

Pros

  • Sturdy design
  • Easy to inflate
  • Versatile
  • Comes with useful accessories

Cons

  • Some noticed it does lose air over time
  • Pump could be higher quality
Dimensions:55 up to 75cm
Colour:5 colour choices
Pump included:Yes
Weight:1.3kg
  • 5 x colour choices
  • 1 x hand pump
  • 1 x measuring tape

Best peanut birthing ball

 BABYGO® Peanut Ball for Labour Birth Pregnancy Exercise
Price: $29.95

The BABYGO Peanut Ball stands out with its unique design, offering more versatility compared to standard birthing balls. Crafted to be stronger, it aims to provide enhanced support when sitting on or leaning against it, aiding in encouraging baby to move into position.

Reviewers found it easy to inflate and deflate, and noted that it can be used later down the line for physiotherapy benefits. Some people found the 50cm size slightly too large, though.

Pros

  • Anti-burst
  • Helps with labour preparation
  • Sturdy and supportive
  • Versatile
  • Can be used for yoga and physiotherapy

Cons

  • Size may not be suitable for shorter individuals
  • Pump could be higher quality
Dimensions:50cm
Colour:Blue
Pump included:Yes
Weight:1.7kg
  • 1 x Peanut Ball
  • 1 x manual
  • 1 x pump
  • 1 x ball plug
  • ‎1 x plug remover
  • 1x tape measure

Birthing ball FAQs

What's the difference between a birthing ball and an exercise ball?

They are effectively the same thing. Sometimes cheaper exercise balls will deflate faster than specialist birthing balls, so make sure it’s fully inflated before birth. Also, some birthing balls will have a non-slip finish which is important.

One thing to check is the size of the ball, as some yoga balls are much smaller than you think when you inflate them. An ideal birthing ball size should be 65cm (26 inches) or 75cm (30 inches) when inflated.

When should I start using a birthing ball?

It’s important to get used to sitting on the ball, so get it inflated and practice the exercises mentioned above. When trying the ball for the first time, place it on a carpet rather than a smooth floor, as this will reduce the movement. Also, it’s a good idea to have someone stand behind you to help you get balanced. Remember, barefoot is best, but if not, make sure you have non-slip shoes or socks on.

Does a birthing ball help start labour?

Hana says: “You can use a birthing ball to prepare for labour or during labour. However, it doesn’t induce labour per se! In the early stages of labour, the birthing ball can bring on surges if a woman sits on the ball and does rotations or the circle exercise mentioned above.”

How can I use my birthing ball after my baby is born?

There's no need to throw away your birthing ball when your bundle of love makes their appearance as there's plenty it can be used for beyond birth, for example:

• For breastfeeding your baby when you're comfortable with getting them to latch on.

• Cuddling them while bouncing on the birthing ball to soothe your little one to sleep.

• For post-natal exercises such as yoga and Pilates.

• As a general chair while working or watching TV - this will help provide better posture.

Can I use a birthing ball to help break my waters?

This is a complicated answer, as nobody really knows how waters break. Hana explains, “I have known many women to state with great conviction that the birthing ball helped to break their waters! In truth, nobody really knows why a woman’s waters break, so there’s no harm in trying to use a birth ball. Saying that, the longer the waters are in place the more cushioning you and baby have when the surges begin.”

A journalist since 2015, Emily Gilbert is the Features & Reviews Editor for Mother&Baby and has written for the website and previously the magazine for seven years. Emily writes about everything from the top baby products to pregnancy, fertility and maternal mental health. Specialising in product reviews, Emily is the first to know about all the exciting new releases in the parenting industry.

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