Unsurprisingly, when women hit the final stretch of their pregnancies, they will try anything to help induce labor and get their babies out of them and into the world.
Expectant moms have tried everything from hot sauce and having sex to exercising and acupuncture. One commonly suggested option is bouncing on a birthing ball – but can it really help induce labor?
There is no evidence to suggest that bouncing on a ball can help induce labor. However, moving on exercise balls and using peanut balls during labor have numerous other benefits for pregnant women.
Although birthing balls probably won’t help you go into labor, they can help you in plenty of other ways. Keep reading to learn more about how birthing balls can benefit you during your pregnancy, during childbirth, and even after you’ve had your baby.
Does Bouncing on a Ball Really Help Induce Labor?
There is no scientific evidence that birthing balls help induce labor. However, using a birthing ball can help relieve pain, stress, and anxiety, both before and once your labor starts. People also claim that it can help shorten labor, although there’s no real evidence to back that up, either.
So what does a birthing ball do?
As it turns out, it does a lot.
Perhaps one of the most important things it does is to help relieve pain during pregnancy and childbirth, notably lower back pain. Numerous studies have been conducted to determine whether or not using a birthing ball actually helps relieve pain, and all of them have had similar results:
Yes, a birthing ball does help relieve pain (sources: The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research & Hong Kong Medical Journal).
These same studies show that doing exercises on a birthing ball also significantly lowers most women’s anxiety and stress levels, and their overall satisfaction with their labor experiences increases. The frequency of labor pains also decreases for women using birthing balls.
If that news wasn’t good enough, there’s actually even better news: these benefits aren’t just for women in active labor. Because the exercises you do on birthing balls are safe for both you and your baby, you can start doing them weeks before your expected due date.
You could even do these exercises throughout the entirety of your pregnancy. However, you should speak to a doctor first so that you can confirm that you don’t have a medical condition that would prevent you from being so active.
How / Why Does Bouncing on a Ball Work To Induce Labor?
Moving on a birthing ball ensures you keep the optimal posture for giving birth. It helps relieve stress and take your mind off labor and reduce any pain in your lower back. Additionally, the exercises you can perform on it help prepare the body for giving birth, making plenty of room for your baby.
Abdominal pain, back pain, and lower back pain are all common complaints for pregnant women. As their due date nears, these problems seem to intensify for most expectant moms (source: University of Michigan Library).
Performing simple movement exercises on a birthing ball can help reduce these issues. This is because these exercises help:
- Distribute your weight more evenly.
- Remove pressure from your lower back and pelvis.
- Strengthen your stomach and back.
- Improve your posture.
- Relieve spinal pressure (source: Healthline).
Some of the best exercises you can do to help yourself include the following:
- Rock-a-Bye Back Pain: For this exercise, you should sit on the ball and move your hips from side to side.
- Simple Squat: In this option, you will do standard squats while holding the birthing ball in front of you. The ball helps you keep your balance and ensures you stay safe.
- Figure Eights: While sitting on the ball, rotate your hips in the shape of a figure eight. Do this several times in one direction, then swap and “draw” your figure eights the other way (source: The Birth Ball).
If you’d like to check out even more exercises you can do to help relieve pain and prepare your body for labor, check out this Youtube video by birthing nurse Mandy Irby:
The four exercises Irby talks about in her video will also help relieve pain during childbirth. Additionally – and perhaps more importantly – they help open your pelvis and get your baby in the optimal position for giving birth.
Lots of moms also claim that using the birthing ball helped speed up their labors. Irby even mentions a mother in the video who had her baby in just two hours after reaching the hospital, thanks to the exercises she did on her birthing ball.
I have no scientific evidence to confirm this, but other moms I’ve talked to have had similar stories about their use of a birthing ball and a quicker, more painless delivery process.
As a quick side note: While there’s no scientific backing that proves birthing balls speed up delivery, there are some studies that show peanut balls can help speed up the labor and delivery process.
(Peanut balls are large rubber balls shaped like peanuts that go between the legs.)
One study presented at the Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses conference included 200 women. Of those, 107 used peanut balls during labor, and the other 93 did not.
The results showed that the peanut balls did “significantly reduce the length of labor, without adverse neonatal outcomes” (source: Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses).
And finally, bringing it back to birthing balls, they aren’t just useful for before and during childbirth.
After giving birth, you’ll be sore, particularly in the vagina, pelvic, and anus regions. In other words, it’s going to be painful to sit for a while. Sitting on a semi-deflated birthing ball can help cushion your bottom and make it less painful to sit.
The gentle rocking motion you can perform on the ball might also be beneficial in soothing your baby (source: Healthline).
If you’re looking for a way to induce labor, the birthing ball probably isn’t going to do it for you. However, if you want to feel better and less stressed while giving birth, you can break out either the birthing ball or the peanut ball – both will be beneficial.