Nine Pregnancy Ball Exercises for Expecting Moms

Are you too busy nurturing your newborn to exercise at will? Don't worry, you can still stay active and exercise even during pregnancy!

If you like yoga? You can try prenatal yoga designed to accommodate your growing belly. Pregnancy ball exercises can help tone your core and improve hip stability, making them a great option for many expecting mothers.

Whether you call your pregnancy ball an exercise ball, stability ball, Swiss ball, balance ball, or birthing ball, you can do plenty of pregnancy ball exercises at home with this simple and inexpensive piece of equipment. You can even use the same exercise ball as a birthing ball in the delivery room!

Are birthing balls safe to use during pregnancy?

In general, exercise balls are safe to use during pregnancy. But always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program during pregnancy.

Keep in mind that your exercise intensity may change during pregnancy due to morning sickness, energy levels, or just general discomfort.

"A large exercise ball can be safely used for some -- mostly seated -- exercise during pregnancy," says American Yoga Alliance registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher and Doula, Manman. "During pregnancy, strenuous abdominal exercise is advised against and expecting mothers are encouraged to modify exercise intensity as needed throughout pregnancy as their body changes.

Exercise balls can challenge your balance, but if you're pregnant, it's recommended that you keep your body steady while doing any pregnancy ball exercises.

"We don't recommend that patients do any birthing ball exercises where their feet are not sitting on the floor, or any exercise that would make them unsteady on their feet, increasing their risk of falling," Manman said.
Also, you want to avoid exercises that involve lying on your back, as this can cause blood pressure to drop, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Nine Pregnancy Ball Exercises to Try

During pregnancy, you still want to make sure your core is strengthening. Using an exercise ball may help relieve pressure on your lower back and pelvis during exercise.

Ready to give it a try? If your doctor allows you to exercise during pregnancy, here are 9 exercises to start.

1. Wall squat

Place an exercise ball between your lower back and a solid wall or stable surface.

With feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, knees bent, and using the ball as support, slowly lower yourself into a squat position.

Push back to standing position and repeat.

2. Abdominal crunch

While we don't recommend performing standard crunches while lying on your back, Manman suggests instead: Sit on an exercise ball and step your feet forward so they're just in front of your knees.

Continue taking small steps until your lower back touches the ball. Your feet should remain flat on the ground, your knees should be bent, and your body should be tilted so that your hips are lower than your shoulders.

Put your hands behind your head, contract your abs toward your spine, and lift your head, arms, and shoulders up and forward.

Make sure the ball is on a non-slip surface, or against a wall, to keep it from slipping under you -- stop if you feel any discomfort.

3. Pelvic floor exercises

Sit on the ball, keeping your spine straight. Contract the pelvic muscles as if to stop the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat.

"Never hold your breath! Manman said.

4. Prom March

Sit on the ball with your feet firmly on the floor. Slowly lift one knee, without letting the ball or hips move, as you exhale and draw the navel toward the spine.
Slowly bring the foot back to the original position and repeat on the other side. Keep alternating sides for 10 repetitions. (Don't forget to breathe!)

"If it's too hard, you can lift your heels and keep your toes on the ground," says Stephanie Stamas, DPT, pelvic health specialist and online pregnancy and postpartum Co-founder of rehabilitation program Chelsea Method.

5. Ball Bridge

"Labour requires a lot of hip and glute strength, so it's important to train those muscles! says Stamas. (The move may be too challenging or uncomfortable later in pregnancy, she suggests.)

Start by sitting on the floor with your upper back resting on the ball. Push up through your feet and lift your hips off the floor toward the ceiling, as high as you can without arching your back.

Hold for three seconds, then lower slowly.

Repeat 10 times.

6. Kneeling ball rolls out

Start in a high kneeling position with your hands on the ball. Keeping your back straight, roll the ball forward until you can feel your core engaging. Hold for three seconds, then roll the ball back into place.

"As long as your abs are stable and not bulging, you're good to go," says Stamas.

Repeat 10 times, and be sure to breathe continuously throughout the exercise.

7. Back and Upper Body Stretch

"The chest and belly often get really tight during pregnancy, so this is a great stretch! says Stamas. Kneel on the floor, lean your hips forward, and place your arms on the ball.

Gently rock the ball to one side until you feel a stretch. Hold here while breathing into the other side of your chest for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

8. Ring

Sit on a ball with your feet planted firmly on the floor, slightly wider than hip-width apart. Move your hips in a circular motion, using the ball to "draw" small circles on the floor.
Repeat 10 times clockwise, then counterclockwise.

9. Figure 8

Sit on a ball with your feet planted firmly on the floor, slightly wider than hip-width apart. Move your hips as if you were drawing a number 8 on the ball. This move is great for opening up the pelvis.

Choosing the Right Exercise Ball

The exercise ball is a great tool to help you through the different stages of pregnancy and labor in a calmer and more relaxed way! Sitting on an exercise ball may help open up the pelvis and pelvic floor during pregnancy. This helps create room for the baby to sink into the pelvis. Additionally, it may also help reduce back pain, and many patients use medicine balls early in labor to relieve some of the stress associated with labor pain. Get started now and choose the right medicine ball to help you through pregnancy.

"When choosing an exercise ball, make sure you get the right size for your height," says Manman.

5'0″ and under: 45 cm wide ball

5'1″ – 5'8″: 55cm wide ball

5'9 – 6'2': 65cm wide ball

6ft 3in and over: 75cm wide ball

After the exercise ball is inflated, check your body position.

"When you're sitting on the ball, your hips should be slightly higher than your knees to avoid stress on your back, allow enough room for your stomach, and give you stability," says Cohen.

If you're in between sizes, Cohen recommends taking the smaller size—especially if you plan to use it as a birthing ball as well."I personally recommend getting the smallest that fits your needs," she says. "During labor, the limbs are relaxed against the ball, and a large ball can be uncomfortable."