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Having A Ball In Labor

You may not have fun in labor, but you can have a ball -- a birth ball, that is!

Whatís a birth ball, you ask? A birth ball is the same as an exercise or physical therapy ball, but it has a different purpose for pregnant and laboring women.

Sitting on a birth ball can help prevent or reposition a posterior (sunnyside up) baby, provide access to your back for your partner or doula to give you a massage or apply counter pressure, help keep you out of the bed, and, when you're not using the ball, it's a great place for your doula, your partner or a friend to sit!

When you inflate your ball, it should be should be slightly firm and large enough for you to sit on with your knees and hips bent at 90-degree angles.
In addition to preventing or repositioning a posterior baby, it can also relieve the low backache of pregnancy, and you will probably find it unbelievably comfortable.

There are lots of ways to use the ball -- here are just a few:

The hands and knees position can be very comfortable for many women in labor, but your hands will become numb very quickly. If you get on your knees and rest your head and arms on the ball, there is less strain on the hands and arms and you will be able to spend more time in this relaxing position. You can sit on the ball, with your partner or doula standing behind you and supporting you. Your legs should be about two feet apart so your feet and butt form a triangle for good balance. You should feel stable and secure. This position helps improve your posture, encourages you to rock side to side or forward and back or in circles, thereby giving the baby a better angle to enter your pelvis.

Our favorite doula, Tracy Hartley, loves the position that requires two support people, usually the partner and the doula, but a mother, sister or friend would work just as well. Here, the partner sits on the bed, facing the laboring woman, who is sitting on the ball. The doula is behind the woman and is sitting on a stable chair (not one with wheels).

During a contraction, mom leans forward and puts her head on the partnerís lap (pillows can be placed on the lap for the laboring woman's comfort). This gives the doula great access to the womanís lower back for massage, pressure, heat or cold packs. Between the contractions, the woman leans back against the doula and the doula gently rocks with her from side to side. This is a great opportunity for the doula to help the woman relax between contractions and prepare for the next one.

If you sit on the ball and lean forward against the bed, your partner or doula will have good access to your lower back for counter pressure or massage. Sitting on warm compresses on the ball will maximize perineal relaxation and help you avoid an episiotomy.

If you're having a long, non-progressing labor, it often means that your babyís head is turned slightly to the side and not in a good position for
delivery. If this happens, you can get into the hospital bed with the foot lowered as far as it can go. Put the ball on the lowered foot of the bed and you on your knees, with your head and arms resting on the ball, so your hips are higher than your shoulders. This position will help baby to slip away from the position he or she is stuck in and get into a better position for an easier birth.

If you are standing by the bed, the ball can be placed on the bed and you can lean forward, resting your head and arms on the ball for a comfortable, leaning forward position to encourage pelvic swaying.

If you are standing and swaying, the ball can be placed against the wall and you can lean back against it for wonderful back support and pressure, helping you to sway from side to side and relax. Have your partner or doula hold it against the wall until you are leaning against it comfortably.

Be sure to clean the ball well before and after your birth. Our favorite doula, Tracy, uses a 10% bleach solution in a spray bottle to clean mine.

It's also a good idea to cover the ball with a Chux pad, even if you use a birth ball cover, so it won't get wet when you release your bag of waters.

Remember that the ball will be coming home in your car after the birth!

If you have a doula, she will most likely bring her birth ball to your birth, but you might want to buy your own. It can be used instead of a rocking chair when baby comes, gently bouncing or rocking on it can help to quiet a fussy baby. It can also be used for colic by placing the baby on his or her stomach on the ball, with you hand on the baby's back; the pressure on the babyís abdomen seems to help.

Tracy Hartley of B*E*S*T Doula Service provided us with these guidelines and loves being a Belly Scooper. She is a DONA certified birth doula, and a member of DASC (Doulas Association of Southern California) and has participated in more than 125 births.






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