Birthing balls can speed the first stage of labor, which begins as the cervix starts to change. Steady contractions rhythmically squeeze the baby whose head applies pressure to the cervix resulting in dilation. Alignment of the baby is vital in uniform dilation, ease of labor and eventually a smooth, uncomplicated birth.
Birthing balls can be found in many retail locations, including on-line. An exercise ball is the same thing. Your height and weight will determine the size of ball right for you, with five sizes available ranging from 45 cm to 85 cm. According to Ron Miller, PT, when sitting on the ball your feet should be flat on the floor, with the knees at a 90 degree angle.
A birthing ball will enable you to change position quickly and comfortably. It also allows gravity to affect the position and descent of your baby. Sit on the ball, with the support of your partner if needed. Labor is dynamic, rapidly changing, so follow your intuition and comfort. Rotating your hips side to side and front to back encourages muscle relaxation as well as proper alignment of your baby. Cervical dilation occurs when your body is able to relax. Tense muscles do not allow for easy dilation. Bouncing gently on the ball helps alleviate pressure in the perineum. As labor progresses, the birth ball becomes an excellent object to lean over, allowing for a more comfortable hands and knees position. Sitting and kneeling both allow for your partner to provide massage or any relaxation method you choose.
During labor you will change positions often. Birthing balls are made out of rubber and are excellent for use in the shower. Water has a very soothing affect on a laboring woman but intense contractions can make it difficult to stand in the shower. Put your ball in the shower and sit on it, allowing the warm water to flow over your body. If your shower is large enough and you prefer to kneel over your ball, have someone put a towel down to cushion your knees. The warm water provides pain relief while the birthing ball aids relaxation and encourages the baby to put pressure on the cervix, speeding dilation.
Using a birthing ball is generally only safe in non-medicated labors. Narcotic pain medication can make you unsteady on your feet while an epidural may completely numb you from your waist down. In both of these instances constant fetal monitoring will be required from a hospital bed for optimal safety.