Birthing balls have become a popular method of low impact exercise during pregnancy. While they seem like a good idea at first, far too often they are left languishing in a corner of the living room as no one is quite sure how to use them.
When used in the right way, however, birthing ball exercises can make a significant different to your pregnancy health and wellbeing.
In this blog, we share some gentle exercises recommended by Joanna Helcké, the UK’s top pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert.
Why use a birthing ball?
- Improving posture during pregnancy
- Performing pelvic floor exercises
- Relieving pregnancy back pain
- Keeping your deep layer of abdominals toned
- Aiding relaxation
- Helping you to cope with contractions during labour
- Supporting you during an active birth
Correct posture is important at any time of life, but during pregnancy it becomes absolutely crucial. As pregnancy progresses, your pelvis will tilt forward due to the weight of your growing bump. This will cause your lower back to arch more than usual, leading to tension and even pain in that area.
How to improve posture using a birthing ball:
- Sit on your birthing ball, checking that your hips are higher than your knees. Keep your feet on the floor hip or shoulder width apart.
- Rotate your shoulders back and relax them downwards away from your ears. Feel a light tension between your shoulder blades and keep hold of that feeling.
- Lengthen through the crown of your head and your neck, as though you are trying to make yourself taller.
- Now gently draw your bump inwards, remembering not to hold your breath!
- Try to practise this tall posture position for a few minutes every day and focus on hold the position throughout the day. This will help protect your back from aches and niggles.
This ‘Pelvic Clock’ move is ideal for easing lower backache, particularly during the early stages of labour.
- Sit on the birthing ball in the tall position described above.
- Push your hips out to the right, then to the back, followed by out to the right before returning to your start position – as if drawing a circle with your pelvis.
- Keep rotating and you will gradually feel tension in the lower back ease off. Once this happens, draw pelvic circles in the opposite direction.
- If you wish, you can increase the size of the circles to get a bigger stretch and help to maintain your mobility.
How to improve core stability using a birthing ball:
Use this exercise to safely work and tone the deepest layer of your abdominals to improve core stability, help prevent backache and speed up postnatal recovery.
Note: This exercise is best done from early pregnancy onwards. If at any point you feel too wobbly when you do it, this the time to stop!
- Sit on your birthing ball in the tall position described above.
- Focus on gently drawing your bump inwards, remembering not to hold your breath!
- Take a breath in and as you exhale raise your right foot an inch or two off the floor. You need to concentrate on using your deep abdominals to stop your hips from shift out towards the left as you raise the right foot. Stay centred, relax your shoulders and neck and remember to keep breathing!
- Gently bring the foot down and swap to the left foot, repeating the previous step.
- Repeat a few times on each side, but stop if you feel unstable. You might find that in late pregnancy that you may wish to modify the exercise by lifting one heel at a time off the floor, keeping the toes on the ground, rather than raising the whole foot up off the floor.
If you liked these birthing ball exercises, you can more fantastic pregnancy and postnatal fitness information at www.joannahelcke.com