The humble exercise ball is a pregnant woman’s best friend, especially from trimester three onwards. Don’t believe us? Read on for how an exercise ball can improve your pregnancy symptoms (including that very sore back) and prepare you for a quicker and easier birth.
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When is it OK to start using an exercise ball during pregnancy?
Assuming you’ve been given the all clear from your midwife or GP, using an exercise ball is pretty much OK at any time during pregnancy. We’ll be honest though, you might be dealing with so many symptoms during the first trimester that any form of exercise feels just way too much. And that’s totally OK! If you’re feeling “meh” then don’t worry about the exercise ball for now and just get some rest instead.
The second trimester is, generally speaking, a time when most pregnant women tend to feel a bit better and have more energy. If this is you then definitely consider adding an exercise ball into your life. There are so many benefits to using exercise ball, plus it’s kinda fun too.
What are the benefits of using an exercise ball during pregnancy?
Using an exercise ball during pregnancy can provide a range of benefits for expectant mothers. Here are five key benefits:
- Improved posture: Sitting on an exercise ball can help improve your posture, which is especially important during pregnancy as your body changes and centre of gravity shifts. By sitting on the ball, you engage your core and back muscles, which can help reduce back pain and prevent poor posture.
- Eases delivery: Sitting on an exercise ball during pregnancy can help prepare your body for labor and delivery. Using the ball for exercises such as pelvic tilts and hip circles can help strengthen your pelvic muscles, which may make delivery easier.
- Relieves discomfort: Pregnancy can cause discomfort, especially in the later stages when you are feeling much bigger and there is a lot of pressure on the pelvic area. Sitting on an exercise ball can help alleviate some of that discomfort by taking pressure off your hips and lower back.
- Promotes circulation: Gently swaying from side to side on an exercise ball can improve blood flow and circulation, which can help reduce swelling and prevent blood clots.
- Encourages movement: An exercise ball can be a fun and easy way to stay active during pregnancy. You can use the ball for exercises such as squats, lunges, and arm workouts, which can help keep you moving and active throughout your pregnancy.
How can an exercise ball help prepare me for labour?
An exercise ball is also great as you move through your pregnancy and get closer to baby arriving. As you approach your due date, you can use the ball to practice different labour positions, bounce on the ball to help baby’s head engage and do gentle stretches to help you stay active and relaxed.
What type of exercise ball should I get?
When considering exercise balls to use during pregnancy, it’s important to choose the right type and size of ball to ensure safety and comfort. Here are some of the most common type of balls:
- Stability Balls: These are the most common type of exercise balls and are the type you might find at the gym. They come in various sizes but it’s important to choose one that suits your height and allows for proper posture and alignment when sitting on it.
- Birthing or Pregnancy Balls: These are specifically designed for pregnancy and childbirth. They are usually larger than standard stability balls and have a wider base to provide more stability and support during labour. They can be used for various birth positions and are great to practice on during pregnancy.
- Peanut Balls: Peanut balls are specialised birthing balls shaped like a peanut or a figure-eight. They are designed to fit between the legs and provide support and comfort during labour. Peanut balls can help open the pelvis, reduce pain, and encourage the baby to descend into the birth canal. They are commonly used in hospitals and birth centres to help with labour.
What size ball should I get?
When sitting on your exercise ball, the hips should be higher than or level with the knees. If the hips are lower than the knees, it means the ball is too small for sitting on. Ideally, your knees should be about 10cm (4in) lower than your hips when you sit on it.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re shorter than 1.73m (5ft 8in) in height, opt for a 65cm ball. If you’re taller than 1.73m (5ft 8in) then it’s best to get a 75cm ball.
What to do before you get your bounce on
An exercise ball really is a very versatile piece of equipment during pregnancy – and kind of fun too – but you still need to use it safely. Here are three important steps to take before you get bouncing…
First things first – remember to always listen to your body, and stop any exercise that causes pain or discomfort. Like any form of exercise during pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to check with your midwife or GP before starting a new exercise routine, especially during pregnancy.
Secondly, be mindful of where you set up to use your exercise ball. Your balance and centre of gravity can be a little off during pregnancy, particularly trimester three onwards. Always make sure you have plenty of space around you and can’t fall onto anything hard or sharp.
And finally, it may be helpful to place the exercise ball against a wall so that you can maintain your balance whilst enjoying the full benefits of bouncing.
Don’t forget these extra tips
- Safety first! Your body is a little different these days so go easy and listen to what it tells you. Now is not the time to be over-doing it or over-stretching yourself. If you experience any pain, dizziness, or discomfort – stop exercising straight away, drink some water and let your midwife know.
- Proper Posture: Focus on maintaining proper posture while using the exercise ball. This will help prevent putting extra strain on your back and pelvis.
- Start slowly: Start with just a few minutes of exercise and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you feel comfortable.
- Hydration: Drink water. Obvs.
- Breathing: Use deep and controlled breathing to help with relaxation. Start with inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds (top tip – the same breathing will help during labour too…)
- Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Always begin with a gentle warm-up and finish with a cool-down to prevent muscle strain. We like to do a little boogie to Swifty to bookend our work outs.
6 exercises to try on your exercise ball during pregnancy
1. Pelvic tilts
Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the ground and your hands resting on your thighs. Gently rock your pelvis forward and backward, keeping your core engaged.
2. Hip circles
Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the ground and your hands resting on your thighs. Slowly circle your hips in one direction, then reverse the direction.
3. Seated march
Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the ground. Lift one foot off the ground and march in place, alternating feet.
4. Wall squats
Stand with your back against a wall and place the exercise ball between your lower back and the wall. Lower into a squat position, keeping your knees in line with your toes.
5. Cat-cow stretch
Get down on your hands and knees with the exercise ball in front of you. Slowly arch your back and drop your head, then round your back and tuck your chin.
6. Chest stretch
Sit on the exercise ball with your arms out to the sides. Slowly bring your arms forward and cross them in front of your chest, then open them back out to the sides.
There are lots of balls out there but we are big fans of the BABYGO Birthing Ball. It’s super strong, comes in seven fab colour options (including nude) and has over 300 5-star reviews. Plus the brand is a supplier to the NHS too – win win!
Let us know below how you get on with the ball exercises. Happy bouncing, babes!
Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. the resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. you should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.