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A birthing ball is a non-pharmacologic pain relief method that is used to help pregnant women cope with the pain of labour and childbirth. The process not only helps ease the sensation of pain in numerous ways but also promotes comfort, wellbeing and a sense of control in labour.
Non-pharmacological pain relief methods like birthing ball for pregnant women are getting more attention nowadays. This is because of the satisfaction, pain relief and effectiveness of the birthing ball, compared to the adverse harmful effects of analgesia, along with its high cost and complications. 
In this article, we will discuss the benefits, types of birthing ball exercise and other details. Take a look.
What Is Birthing Ball?
A birth ball, also known as a swiss ball or fitball is a large ball with a diameter of 55 cm or 65 cm (almost 22 to 26 inches). The ball allows a soft surface to sit or lean on and carry out simple exercises. These exercises can help relieve the physical pain of a pregnant woman by improving their mobility, pelvic dimensions and position of the foetal. 
The birth ball also may help improve psychological wellbeing by promoting a sense of control in body postures, coordination and balance, ensuring successful delivery of a baby without any complications.
To note, the birth ball can be used during pregnancy, during labour and after the birth.
How A Birth Ball Differs From Other Ball Types?
- The birth ball is made of anti-burst material (similar to some gym ball). It means that when it is punctured, it wouldn't burst at once and instead, deflate slowly.
- It is quite bigger than balls used in gyms for exercises.
- It comes with an anti-slip finish to prevent slipping accidents while exercising during pregnancy.
- It also comes in the shape of a peanut. A peanut-shaped birth ball helps lift the legs on the ball while resting or sleeping.
- A birth ball is made in such a way that it can easily take the weight of pregnant women (up to 300 kg).
Benefits Of Using Birthing Ball
A birthing ball can help pregnant women in many ways. However, it depends on the personal choice whether they want to use it or not. Some of the benefits of using birth ball during pregnany include: 
- Promotes the balance in activities of the day-to-day lives.
- Helps improve strength, balance, flexibility and coordination for smoother labour and delivery.
- Improve physical functions of both upper and lower body.
- Improve back pain, abdominal or pelvic pain, and stress, the common pain types during the pregnancy.
- The birth ball provides comfortability and helps relieve pressure in the pelvic region, spinal area and lower back, compared to sitting on a chair or any flat surfaces.
- Sitting on the birth ball in an upright position may also help open the pelvic muscles, thus allowing the baby to easily slip into the pelvis for easier delivery.
- Exercising on birth balls can help reduce stress and anxiety levels and promote a sense of well-being.
How To Choose The Right Birthing Ball?
A birth ball is chosen according to maternal height. If your height is:
- Less than 5 feet 4 inches, a recommended birth ball size is 55 centimetres.
- Between 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 10 inches, a recommended birth ball size is 65 centimetres.
- Above 5 feet 10 inches or taller, a recommended birth ball size is 75 centimetres.
How To Use Birthing Ball?
- Pregnant women can use birth ball since the beginning of their pregnancy for sitting or while watching TV.
- From around 32 weeks, a birth ball can be used to perform some gentle exercises, after consulting a medical expert or midwives.
- The birth ball can be used for massage during back pain, in such situations, women can lean forward to a bed or table while sitting on a birth ball, to allow their partner or anyone to massage the back.
- If a woman is near her pushing stage, she can get into a hands-and-knees position, similar to a crawling baby, and hug the birthing ball for pain relief.
- When the delivery date is near and the baby is in the posterior position (baby facing mom's abdomen), instead of the anterior position, some birthing ball exercises may help bring the baby position to anterior for smooth delivery.
- After the delivery, you can deflate the ball a little and use it to breastfeed or cuddle your baby while sitting on it.
- Exercising with the ball can also help tone the body post-pregnancy.
Exercise To Do With A Birthing Ball
Birthing ball exercises have shown improved childbirth self-efficacy and reduction in labour pain, in a study. It can be one of the best prenatal preparation method related to decreased medication or analgesia and decreases pain perception during labour. 
Some of the best exercises to do with a birthing ball include:
1. Hula hoop
This exercise helps open the pelvic area for smooth delivery and also, position the baby's head into the pelvic area.
To do this exercise, sit on the ball, with hands on the hips and feet wide apart as your hips, keeping the knees around the 90-degree angle.
While sitting, make large circular motions with the hips in one direction keeping the back straight. Now, circle the hips from another direction.
2. Pelvic tilts
This exercise helps open and loosen the hips during labour or delivery. To do this, sit on the ball straight and place hands on the knees. Now, move your lower back gently in a back and forth position.
Sit on a ball and bounce gently for a few minutes at a time. Though the birth balls are anti-slippery, it is suggested to keep a chair or do near the bed for support. The exercise helps improve coordination and balancing ability. It also helps strengthen the legs.
4. Side to side hips
This exercise helps relieve tightness in the sides of the body. To do this, sit on the ball straight and move the hips side to side. This position may also help achieve the correct delivery position of the baby.
5. Ball lift
This exercise helps stretch the spinal cord and tone the muscles of the arm. To do this, stand with the feet apart and holding the birth ball with both hands. Lift the ball over the head by stretching the hands and then slowly bring it down.
Who Should Not Use The Birthing Ball?
For safety reason, some women are not suggested to use a birth ball. They include:
- Women with multiple pregnancies.
- A pregnancy complication with restricted movement.
- Planned caesarean delivery
- An unusual position of the baby.
- Any other problems that do not suggest the use of the birth ball by medical experts.
A birth ball helps pregnant women in many ways in all three trimesters. However, it should be used strictly under the guidance of a medical expert or a midwife. Also, one must not totally depend on this treatment method to ease pain related to pregnancy, as it is just a secondary treatment method. Consult a medical expert if you experience pain for a longer period.