How a Yoga Ball Can Make Pregnancy Easier

Bouncing on a yoga ball can feel a little silly, but looking a little silly is worth it for expecting moms.

In the beginning, yoga and stability balls and other similar props like peanut balls were used by prenatal mothers as comfortable seats. As pregnancy progresses, most women find it very uncomfortable to sit in a chair or in a still position for long periods of time. Because the exercise ball for pregnancy is a responsive seat - due to its rounded shape it is in constant motion, forcing the person using it to make slight movements to readjust their balance on the ball - great for anyone with a lower body For those with back or hip pain, it's more comfortable than traditional chairs.

But sitting on a comfortable, inflatable exercise ball can do more than just relieve sore muscles. It has also been shown to reduce the chance of a C-section by nearly 13 percent, shortening the first stage of labor by 90 minutes and the more painful second stage by 30 minutes.

Natural childbirth, as women have experienced for centuries, is rarely performed in bed or on a table. Instead, women move, rock, sit, and crouch to facilitate the labor process. But with modern painkillers like the omnipotent epidural, laboring mothers have to lie down to deliver. After an epidural, labor usually slows down; although it is less painful for the mother, the actual labor process can last several hours, which is not necessarily the healthiest option for the baby.

Yoga balls are beneficial in several ways.

1. They help reduce pain. According to a study by the National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, 188 expectant mothers used a pregnancy ball exercise and sit for six to eight weeks before and during labor. Forty percent of the women in the study found they had better pain control and less need for pain medication or epidurals.

2. Banner Health Medical Centers in Arizona has made it mandatory that every delivery room in its facility be equipped with birthing balls and peanut balls because they reduce C-sections. Using a birth ball, either lying down or sitting up helps increase the pelvic diameter necessary for the baby to descend naturally into the birth canal during labor. This means that even if they opt for an epidural to help with pain relief, women can use birth balls to speed up the labor process. Since adding the props to their delivery rooms, Banner Health has noticed a significant drop in the incidence of unplanned C-sections or instrument-assisted vaginal deliveries, which include the use of vacuums or forceps.

Nor is the yoga ball relegated to the garage or closet once the baby is born—moms (and dads!) can use it to help strengthen core muscles that were stretched and weakened during pregnancy. Here are a few ways to use a stability ball during your workout:

Replace your office chair with a 65cm yoga ball to help improve your postural muscles.

Press into the top of the 45cm exercise ball with your hands or forearms and plant your feet firmly on the ground in a plank. Make this more challenging by flipping your body position—hands on the ground, feet on a stability ball to support your plank.

Do regular sit-ups on the pregnancy ball, lying flat on your back.

For a really challenging option, sit on the ground with the ball in front of you.

Place your legs on the ball with your knees straight. Roll all the way back so you lie down with your legs on the ball, then sit all the way up so your body looks like a V. Hold for five seconds, then release.