Labor Positioning With a Birthing Ball

 A birth ball is becoming popular for women giving birth in hospitals, birth centers, and at home. These physiotherapy balls are the same as the ones you use in many exercise classes. They are very handy for use in positioning in labor and birth and they can also help provide you with comfort during your pregnancy.


Sitting on a Birth Ball

Pregnant woman sitting on ball
 Image Source/Getty Images

Sitting on the birth ball is not difficult. You should plant your feet about shoulder-width apart and simply sit on the ball. Balance should not be an issue if you maintain an upright posture and keep your feet wide enough. If you are concerned that you will fall off the birth ball, consider buying an alternative – the peanut ball.

You should choose a birth ball according to your height. The most common size is the 65-centimeter ball.

Using movement with the birth ball can increase the benefits. You can sway side to side or in a circle. This movement is easy to do in labor. It also helps stretch your body and move the baby into a good position for birth by using movement, gravity, and upright positioning.


Leaning on a Birth Ball

You can lean over the birth ball while you are in labor. This allows your doula or husband to rub your back. If you make a swaying motion you can help stretch out your lower back or upper back with the movement.

You can do this position either on the bed or on the floor. Just be sure that the ball is stable if you use a taller surface.


Leaning Over the Bed With the Birth Ball

Placing the birth ball on a bed and leaning over it while standing is a great position. You get the comfort of leaning forward, as well as the comfort of standing up. Standing allows you to use gravity in your favor by helping to bring the baby down. The upper body can rest against the birth ball.

When using this position, you need to make sure you are leaning into the ball enough to help it stay secure on the bed. A roll of towels or having someone sit on the opposite side of the ball can also work well.


Sitting Upright With Peanut Ball

A peanut ball is a great tool in labor. It is particularly good if you need to be in bed during labor. Sometimes this is needed because of monitoring or medications being used, including the epidural.

Some studies have shown the use of a peanut ball reduces the cesarean rate in mothers who have an epidural. This can be a great way to help keep moving in bed while still resting.

However, many hospitals do not have a peanut ball and you may have to bring your own with you. This is something that you would need to ask about in your ​hospital tour.


Side Lying With a Peanut Ball

The peanut ball can also be used for side-lying positions in labor, which is a great position for resting or even sleeping. It can be done in conjunction with an epidural in labor.

You may need help from your doula or a nurse to get positioned with the ball. This helps your pelvis stay open while you are resting.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Yeung MPS, Tsang KWK, Yip BHK, et al. Birth ball for pregnant women in labour research protocol: a multi-centre randomised controlled trialBMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):153. doi:10.1186/s12884-019-2305-8

  3. Leung RW, Li JF, Leung MK, et al. Efficacy of birth ball exercises on labour pain managementHong Kong Med J. 2013;19(5):393–399. doi:10.12809/hkmj133921

  4. Lawrence A, Lewis L, Hofmeyr GJ, Styles C. Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labourCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(10):CD003934. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003934.pub4

  5. Tussey CM, Botsios E, Gerkin RD, Kelly LA, Gamez J, Mensik J. Reducing length of labor and cesarean surgery rate using a peanut ball for women laboring with an epiduralJ Perinat Educ. 2015;24(1):16–24. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.24.1.16

  6. Lamaze International. Peanut balls for labor - A valuable tool for promoting progress?.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.