Exercising with birth ball during pregnancy
I had seen the birthing ball a couple of times, both on TV and Magazines and I thought it was for ‘Oyibo people’, as I mostly saw it on foreign media. Even when it found its way into my local gym, I hardly ever saw it used by anyone. I would later realize the absolute importance of a birthing ball especially in the second half of pregnancy (from 20 weeks), as the abdominal bump grew bigger, with all the attendant discomfort.
A birthing ball, is simply an exercise ball but when used in pregnancy and labour, it takes on the name ‘Birthing or Birth Ball’. It is a large air-filled rubber ball, which is strong enough to hold the weight of a human, in this case, a woman and the baby in her belly, even up to 300kg. This ball is different from any other regular inflatable ball as it is made from an anti-burst material, which means that even when punctured accidentally, it deflates slowly rather than with a bang. Which is why it is very important to check the material of your birthing ball to avoid any accident that may occur from a puncture, if not anti-burst.
Before purchasing any birth ball, you must consider your height and the size of the ball. Your birth ball must be one that when you sit on it with your feet planted upright on the ground, your knees are comfortably at a right angle or slightly lower (no more than 4inches). Anything more or less means that you most likely won’t adapt the right upright position while on it. This means taller women must look for a bigger ball. Some stores usually have samples, so try sitting on them first for trials before purchasing. Also ensure that you inflate it to capacity so that it is firm, and gives just a little dent on pressing, which bounces back immediately when you let go.
One of the most important things that a birth ball will help you achieve and adopt in pregnancy is the right posture. When sitting on a regular chair, an average pregnant woman defaults to a slouching or arched position as this is more comfortable for the bump, but this also leads to lower back and pelvic pain, which is not only painful but highly discomfiting in pregnancy. However, sitting on the birth ball will force you to adopt an upright position, as you cannot slouch or arch on a ball comfortably. Sitting on this ball regularly is considered exercising the pelvic and lower back muscles, so you may consider having it replace your regular chair at home, or in the office (where you are able to, of course). Finding a way to adopt the birth ball into your regular everyday life will ensure that you get a couple of hours of exercise done daily. I personally made sure that every evening as I watched prime time TV, I sat on my birth ball instead of the sofa.
Now beyond sitting, you can take the exercise to the next level by doing several moves right on the ball. For example, you can bounce on the ball. And no, not lazy bounces. Strong and full upward and downward motion which you feel even in your bump. Make sure your bum stays in contact with the ball, and your feet stays planted firmly on the floor all through your bounce.
Then you can also hip roll on the ball. Place your feet apart, and arms on the waist and roll your waist in clockwise and anti-clockwise position. You don’t have to go as fast as a Latin dancer, just make sure you get a good circular range. You are working your pelvic and hip muscles, preparing them for labour.
If you are not quite ready for anything intense, you could rock gently back and forth, making sure to shoot out your bum and push out your chest when you rock forward. Every move you make should be felt in your pelvic region.
Finally, when in the early stages of labour at home, or if your hospital would allow you have your ball with you, you can kneel over your ball and rock back and forth with it. Just kneel, bend over it with your face down at the other end of the ball and rock gently. You could also put the ball to the wall, and sit with your back pressed against it. This relieves that uncomfortable lower back pain that accompanies labour in some women. You can feel free to do anything that gets you a little more comfortable in labour, when you are not walking. Just make sure you don’t stay idle especially in the early stages, so that you can move things along a little faster.So, next time you see a birth ball, grab it and get busy with your bump. It is a very good way to get your 30-45mins exercise a day, in.