During pregnancy, sitting and exercising on a Pilates ball or fitball has multiple benefits, including promoting body posture, reducing back and lumbar pain, relieving the weight of the pelvic floor and even making it easier for the baby to turn when he is not well placed.
But its use is also becoming popular during labor, and more and more hospitals are offering women the use of a Pilates ball to promote dilation and ease the pain of contractions.
We explain how the use of the fitball in childbirth benefits you and what exercises are the most recommended.
Why is it beneficial to use a fitball during childbirth?
Although we usually call childbirth the exact moment in which the baby is born, the truth is that childbirth is a longer process that consists of three phases, mainly: dilation, expulsion and delivery.
In the dilation phase, the effacement, softening and dilation of the cervix occurs, which must reach 10 centimeters to open the birth canal and allow the baby to come out.
In this sense, the pilates ball or fitball ball can become a great ally during the birth process, as it allows the woman to adopt different postures that help open her hips and favor engagement.
For this reason, more and more hospitals have this resource in their delivery rooms , so that women can freely choose if they want to use the ball to dilate and relieve pain.
However, if you have already used the fitball during pregnancy, when the first labor contractions begin you can continue using it at home to relax before it is time to go to the hospital.
What to keep in mind before using the fitball during childbirth?
It is preferable that before using the ball in childbirth you have used it previously during pregnancy , as this way you will be familiar with its characteristics and the sensations produced by sitting on it.
The fitball ball is an unstable surface, and at the end of pregnancy it is normal to feel more ‘clumsy’ in our movements due to the volume of the belly and the change in our center of gravity.
If you have not used this type of ball during pregnancy , it is recommended that you use it under the supervision of your midwife or health professional during childbirth. They will tell you how to sit on it and give you guidelines to keep in mind for safe use.
On the other hand, it is also important to know how inflated the ball needs to be. Keep in mind that if you inflate it too much and it is too hard, your pelvis will be able to open less. On the contrary, if it is too soft you will have a greater range of hip movement but you will lose stability, hence the importance of always being accompanied when you use it.
To know if the size of the ball is the one indicated in your case (the diameter of the fitball ball must be chosen according to the height of the person who is going to use it) you must observe that when you sit on it your feet are completely supported on the ground , knees hip-width or slightly lower, and your legs bent at a 90-degree angle.
Exercises to do with the ball during labor
There are several exercises you can do with the ball during dilation. The important thing is to choose those that give you security and that are comfortable for you, and adapt them as you see fit according to the rhythm of your contractions.
In this video from Mammactive, a physiotherapist specialized in pregnant women, you can see several exercises to do with a ball.
Exercises sitting on the ball
– Sit straight on the ball, open your hips as much as you can and place your legs in external rotation, that is, with the balls of your feet pointing outwards.
Then rock your pelvis gently . You can do it from front to back, from side to side, in the form of a lying 8 or infinity symbol or in circular movements. It is important to do the movements with the pelvis exclusively and not with the whole body.
This position allows for a wide opening of the pelvis, and the movements help to massage the pelvic floor and create more space for the baby to latch on.
– These same exercises can be practiced with the torso slightly bent forward , letting your belly fall between both legs. For greater comfort you can lean on a chair or on your companion, and drop your head to be more relaxed.
Kneeling exercises on the floor
– Get on your knees on the floor, with the pilates ball in front of you and your hips open. Lean your trunk forward and drop onto the ball , relaxing your abdomen and resting your chest and arms on the ball.
Move the pelvis gently with the movements mentioned: from side to side, front to back or in circles.
– Support one knee on the ground and open the other leg supporting the foot . Bring your trunk forward and lean on the pilates ball. Perform gentle lateral exercises towards the leg that you have open, flexing and extending it with each movement.
Don’t forget to combine these exercises with deep breathing when the contraction hits, as well as lower back massages and shoulder and neck exercises to relieve tension.