Birthing balls are great for exercise, or to get into a comfortable position during pregnancy, labor or after your baby is born.
Why are birthing balls/exercise balls important?
No pregnant mother will argue the fact that it is hard to sit when you are pregnant no matter how comfortable that couch is, sitting on your exercise ball will help keep your posture in check. Whenever you sit – sit on your exercise ball.
During pregnancy it is very important to have strong back muscles as well as abdominal. Using an exercise ball helps maintain stability as the belly grows – and helps keep abdominal muscles strong. Strong abdominal are important during the pushing phase of labor. After the fourth month of pregnancy, many women give up on doing ab work on the floor because it can put pressure on the vena cava, a large vein that carries blood back to the heart. The weight of the pressure from the uterus can also cause a drop in blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the brain and placenta resulting in dizziness and nausea. While balancing on the ball you can still work your abs without the discomfort of using the floor as your tool.
Many believe that the recovery phase after pregnancy is much easier when you stay fit during your pregnancy. One of the easiest ways to use an exercise ball is to sit comfortably while you are working or relaxing. Using a exercise ball is a great way to improve your posture and balance, and to exercise your ab muscles. This helps your body support the weight of your pregnancy. You may find that your ball is easier to get on and off of as opposed to a hard chair or sofa. Also, sitting on a birthing ball will give you a mini-workout. As you rock or bounce on it gently, your tummy and back will be working hard to keep you upright. Setting up your ball is a very important step, while you are inflating your ball it should be firm to the touch, but not too hard – usually about 70% of the size is the proper amount of inflation. You want to make sure the ball is inflated enough that your hips are higher than your knees.
It is recommended to leave the ball for 24 hours after inflating before you begin to use it. The firmer the ball, the less stability it has, the harder the exercises will be for you. As you try to sit on your ball for the very first time, please take precaution and rest the ball against a sturdy chair or sofa, in case you need to steady yourself. Place your feet 20-25 inches apart feet firmly planted on the floor. Keep your spine straight, but lean forward slightly. This will help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which is something that is very important in pregnancy to prepare your body for an easier labor.
Remember if you feel any discomfort or become out of breath, please stop immediately.
After you become comfortable with using your ball you can then begin these exercises.
Sitting upright on your ball you can begin to rock your hips gently from side to side. Rotate your hips in circles also doing sets of 10 clockwise and counterclockwise.
Arm and Leg Lift
Sit erect on top of the ball with your hands on your thighs, feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart and a comfortable distance from the ball. Maintaining your balance, straighten your left leg and lift it up to hip level. At the same time, lift your arms out to the sides up to shoulder height. Return to starting position and perform with your right leg; do reps alternating legs. (Note: If extending your leg is difficult, keep your knee bent and just lift your foot off the floor).
Wall Squat and Back Massage
Place the ball between your lower back and the wall. Lean back against the ball, and walk your feet out so they’re in front of your belly, hip-width apart. Place your hands on your thighs. Slowly bend your knees into a squat position, keeping your knees aligned with your ankles and squatting no lower than your hips. Pressing gently against the ball, feel it roll up your back. Straighten knees and hips back to a standing position. Repeat.
Use your gym ball for your baby
You can use the gym ball to cradle your baby, rocking them to sleep gently. Also babies with head control may enjoy being held and bounced. Older babies that can sit or stand with support may enjoy batting and playing with the gym ball on the floor.