Much appreciated by pregnant women to relieve their pain and exercise their perineum, the pregnancy ball also allows the expectant mother to mobilize her core muscles and stay in shape until the birth. How to choose it and use it well? Answers from Barbara Forster, midwife.
What is a pregnancy ball?
Initially, these large inflatable balls were called exercise balls or fit balls and were primarily used for gentle gymnastics to relieve back pain. It was physical therapist Suzanne Klein who dreamed it up in the 1960s to help her patients with their rehabilitation programs. “But it was not until the 1990s that their use really spread, especially in sports halls and delivery rooms.“explains the midwife. It is particularly popular with fitness enthusiasts, yoga, calisthenics and Pilates.
While it is basically known today as a pregnancy ball due to its success with expectant mothers, it can also be referred to as a Swiss Ball®, Gym Ball®, Tresco®, Fitness Ball, Swiss Ball, exercise ball or Pilates Ball. Generally made of PVC, its diameter ranges from 55 to 75 cm depending on the height and weight of the user.
Once inflated, the pregnancy ball must remain very flexible: it must therefore not be 100% inflated, otherwise it will be less effective.
Track your pregnancy week by week
Choosing the right pregnancy ball is crucial to get the most out of it and reap all the benefits! There are a large number of models that vary in size, color and texture, but it is particularly important to check that they meet safety standards.
“I recommend choosing the ones that have anti-burst property, which means the balloon will deflate slowly and won’t burst if punctured by a sharp object“, explains Barbara Forster.
What size to choose for the pregnant woman?
The pregnancy balloon is chosen according to its size, which must be proportional to the physique of its user. Barbara Forster’s recommendations are as follows:
- Women under 1.60 m can choose a ball with a diameter of 55 cm;
- Anyone who is between 1.60 m and 1.80 m tall and weighs less than 85 kg prefers a ball with a diameter of 65 cm;
- Expectant mothers who are 1.70 m tall and weigh more than 85 kg choose a ball with a diameter of 75 cm;
- Sizes are sometimes declined in M, L, XL or 1, 2, 3.
“You can be sure that your pregnancy balloon is the right size if, in a seated position, the expectant mother’s knees are at hip height when the balloon is optimally inflated‘ says the midwife.
Why the pregnancy ball: what are its advantages?
During pregnancy, and especially from the middle of the second trimester until birth, the baby weighs more and more heavily in the mother’s womb and can cause back and lumbar pain.
“The pregnancy ball is versatile, both during pregnancy, during labor and after birth,” explains Barbara Forster.
During pregnancy it helps:
- Do stretching exercises;
- muscle strengthening;
- relaxation exercises;
- To improve blood circulation in heavy legs;
- Working the perineum in anticipation of childbirth;
- relieve lower back pain;
- “To increase well-being, gentle and suitable for pregnancy‘ adds the midwife.
During work :
It is very useful for facilitating the opening of the cervix and helping the baby descend smoothly.
It helps the young mother regain shape and tone. “It’s a real ally for abdominal-perineal rehabilitation,” points out the midwife.
Because it does not need to be 100% inflated and must remain flexible, the pregnancy ball creates instability in its user and that is what makes it so effective!
“Once installed on the ball, the mother-to-be must therefore mobilize her deep muscles to keep her balance, whether at the level of the back or especially the abdominal muscles. said Barbara Foerster. So it helps to work effectively on posture.
The exercises with the pregnancy ball can be varied as desired and the woman instinctively feels what is good for her. However, here are some examples of exercises that need to be performed on a non-slippery surface so that the ball sticks well to the ground and stays in place.
To relieve back pain
The pregnancy ball is placed at a comfortable height at back level. Feet are placed flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart: the exercise consists of gently rolling the ball from top to bottom on the spine, slightly bending the legs, and with a greater amplitude, depending on the capacity of the mother. “IIt is important not to force: this exercise should not cause pain‘ said the midwife.
To tone your thighs, relax your back and feel your perineum
The ball is placed at back level, feet flat on the floor, their opening respecting the width of the shoulders. “It then involves bending your knees while contracting the perineum on the exhale, and then straightening your legs by releasing the perineum on the inhale‘ says Barbara Foerster.
To promote blood circulation and combat heavy legs
Lying on a floor mat, the expectant mother places her pregnancy ball under her calves.
“With a back and forth movement from left to right, she gently rocks her legs for a very comfortable exercise for both you and baby‘ describes the midwife.
To work on your breathing capacity and improve upper back comfort
Sitting comfortably on the ball, feet flat and legs wide enough to be stable:
- Inhale while opening your arms to your sides, parallel to the floor;
- Then exhale, arch your back and bring your hands together.
Work on pelvic flexibility and take the pressure off your lower back
Sitting on the ball, well anchored and with her feet flat on the floor, the expectant mother makes circular movements with her pelvis. “She can make movements from right to left, but also from front to back, as if you wanted to roll the pelvis‘ the midwife explains.
To strengthen the arm and back muscles
In a standing position, legs apart: Holding the ball in your hands, straighten your arms and successively bring the ball to your right and then left, tilting your chest slightly to each side but keeping your shoulders forward .
“The pregnancy ball is an excellent accessory to prepare for the baby’s arrivalconfirms the midwife!
To do this, the mother can sit on the ball and make circular movements with her pelvis. “These circles allow the pelvis to tilt well and stimulate the cervix. This exercise can encourage the baby to sink into the pelvis more easily at the end of pregnancy and also prepares the perineum“.
The young woman can also position the ball behind her back at a height that suits her and make up and down movements with the ball.
Finally, to promote the correct positioning of the baby in the mother’s womb: she can kneel, put her chest against the ball and let her arms hang along the ball, a bit like on all fours, but with the ball holding his chest supports.
“This exercise helps the baby position himself forward again to ease his descent into the pelvis.“, explains Barbara Forster.
Are there any contraindications to use?
Contraindications to its use are rare. “However, it is advisable to be cautious and to follow the advice of the midwife or her obstetrician/gynecologist, for example in the event of a threatened premature birth or a low-lying placenta.‘ says the midwife.
In order not to affect its quality and to keep it in good condition for as long as possible, it is recommended to keep your balloon away from heat sources – radiators, sun – in a clean, dry place.
If he is in a room with underfloor heating, it is desirable to put him on a carpet that will protect him from direct heat.