Birthing ball exercisesIf a birthing ball is a labour aid that you’re considering, it’s a great idea.  Helping you to keep moving through your labour, the rhythmic movement and gentle exercise can help to relax you and to help labour progress.

However, you can use your birthing ball whilst you’re pregnant too to help you exercise and stay in shape in preparation for the big day.  Birthing balls are great for pregnancy, as long as you know what to do with them. In fact, doing just a few birthing ball exercises every day can be enough to alleviate pregnancy back pain, relieve upper body tension and generally leave you feeling a whole lot better.  With this in mind, Dr Joanna Helcke has created a guide for mums-to-be to take you step by step through some of the best gentle birthing ball exercises, with moves including: Child’s Pose, Pelvic Tilts, Pelvic Floor, Resistance Band, Spinal Rotation, ‘Dumb Waiter’, Core Stability and Neck Release.  Here are a few to get you started….

Pelvic Tilts on a Birthing Ball

Pelvic tilts are perfect for relieving tension in the lower back, especially as your bump gets heavier and your pelvis starts to tilt forward. Take a look at the two pictures and then carefully follow my step by step instructions:

  • Sit tall on your birthing ball with good posture: shoulders back and down, neck long, chest lifted and abdominals gently pulled inwards.
  • Tuck/tilt your pelvis under so that you are rounding and lengthening through your lower back (lumbar spine) – see the second picture.
  • Feel the lower abdominals tightening around the bottom of your bump, and a pleasant release of tension in your lower back.
  • Repeat until tension in lower back releases.

Child’s pose using a birthing ball

This is an incredibly relaxing stretch for pregnancy and you will feel the tensions in your back, shoulders, neck and chest wash away as you let yourself sink into this move.

  • Place your hands on the birthing ball in front of you.
  • Sit back onto your heels.
  • Relax through the whole of your spine, from your neck down to your tailbone. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, let yourself sink downwards

Pelvic floor exercises on a birthing ball

Doing your pelvic floor exercises on a birthing ball will encourage you to focus on posture, so why not do at least one of your three daily sets of PFEs on the fitball and get double the benefit?

  • Sit tall on your birthing ball with good posture: shoulders back and down, neck long, chest lifted and abdominals gently pulled inwards.
  • Start off by pulling up at the “back passage”, as if stopping yourself from passing wind in public!
  • Now pull up at the “front passage”, as if stopping yourself from weeing.
  • You can place a hand at the very bottom of your abdominals (just above your pubic bone and at the very bottom of your bump) to see if you can feel your deep abdominals co-contracting with the pelvic floor. If you can feel this area tensing up under your hand, then you know that you are doing your PF pull ups correctly.
  • Try to relax the rest of the body, and remember to BREATHE as you pull up.

Resistance band postural exercise

As you know, posture is greatly affected by your growing bump and this, in turn, can lead to back ache. Resistance work to keep the back and posture strong is a definite must in pregnancy. Try this easy exercise whilst seated on your birthing ball.

  • Sit tall on your birthing ball with good posture: shoulders back and down, neck long, chest lifted and abdominals pulled gently inwards.
  • Now focus on very gently drawing your bump inwards as if giving your baby a hug. Don’t hold your breath and remember to keep breathing.
  • Hold the resistance band above your head with arms wide and chest open (first picture).
  • Now lower your elbows to shoulder height, whilst keeping the hands directly above your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Take a look at the second picture: the elbows have a 90º angle and the chest is wide open.
  • Lift and lower in a controlled manner for 15+ repetitions: you are working your postural muscles with this exercise.

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