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The Truth About Exercise Balls and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

When you are pregnant, there are a lot of things to worry about. But did you know that an exercise ball could be one of the best tools you have during your pregnancy?

An exercise ball, also known as a stability ball or birthing ball, can be used for a variety of exercises and activities that will help keep you healthy and comfortable during your pregnancy.

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you want to know about exercise balls and pregnancy including how to use them during pregnancy and the benefits they offer.

We will also share some safe exercises to do on a stability ball during your prenatal fitness plan, explain how to effectively use a birthing ball during labor, and even teach you how valuable a stability ball can become in your life after your baby is born.

**This post might contain affiliate links to items I own and love and feel will benefit you immensely. Read full disclosure here.**

exercise ball during pregnancy labor uses and exercises

Can You Use an Exercise Ball While Pregnant?

The short answer is yes! Exercise balls are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. Also if you have a high-risk pregnancy or any concerns, please first check with your trusted prenatal doctor or midwife to be sure that using an exercise ball during pregnancy is right for you.

First, make sure that the exercise ball you purchase is the right size for your height.

When sitting on the ball, your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle and your thighs should be parallel to the ground. Must exercise balls are measured in centimeters and come in increments of 10 centimeters starting at 45 cm and going up to 75cm.

You can find exercise balls at most sporting goods stores or online. I recommend getting a professional-grade ball that is made from anti-burst material. But don’t worry, even an anti-burst ball is super cheap. You can get a good quality exercise ball for around $15 on Amazon or in most stores.

I just buy mine on Amazon these days as it is such an essential piece of equipment in our household. Is it because I’m pregnant?

Nope, not anymore! Read on to find out how a simple exercise ball can be helpful from pregnancy through postpartum (where I’m at).

Second, when you are using the exercise ball during pregnancy, make sure that it is firm.

Though you might not feel it at first, when using an exercise ball for bouncing that is not inflated enough, you will put too much pressure on your spine. Over time this can cause pain or even lead to injury.

Third, avoid balancing exercises on a ball during pregnancy.

There are many balance exercises that you will find when looking up different exercises to do on an exercise ball. Many challenge your balance, which is why they are also referred to as stability balls.

While there are many pregnancy-safe exercises you can do on your exercise ball during pregnancy (as we will share later on) avoid those that challenge your balance too much.

Your balance is already compromised throughout your entire pregnancy, balancing on a ball is likely too difficult. You want to avoid any exercise that may cause you to lose your balance and possibly fall during pregnancy.

And finally, listen to your body!

As with any prenatal exercise, this is always the number one rule. If at any time you feel dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded while using the exercise ball, please sit down and rest.

If it is causing your joints to hurt stop using the exercise ball in whichever manner you were. If something feels “wrong” modify or stop.

What’s the Difference Between an Exercise Ball and a Birthing Ball?

An exercise ball is an inflatable ball that you can use for a variety of exercises. They are usually big enough to sit on as if you are sitting in a chair but there are mini exercise balls as well.

Exercise balls go by a variety of names including but not limited to:

  • Swiss balls
  • fitness balls
  • yoga balls
  • Pilates balls
  • balance balls
  • body balls
  • birth balls
  • Pezzi balls
  • fitness balls
  • gym balls
  • physio balls

An exercise ball challenges your balance and helps improve your posture, flexibility, and core strength.

What is a birthing ball?

A birthing ball is simply an exercise ball that is used during pregnancy and labor to help with positioning and comfort.

It is the exact same thing as an exercise ball, simply marketed differently. Not a bit of difference between them

There is a second type of birthing ball called a peanut as well that takes on the shape of a, well you guessed it, peanut. But that isn’t a birthing “ball” per se.

Pregnancy Ball Exercises

You can definitely incorporate ball workouts into your prenatal fitness plan. The overall best prenatal fitness plan is The Perfect Pregnancy Fitness Plan. It is a full 40-week workout plan designed with a pregnant woman’s changing body in mind.

It is the only prenatal fitness program that addresses all the changes and weaknesses your body is going to encounter throughout your pregnancy and focuses on strengthening them before they become weak, from your pelvic floor to your back!

The Perfect Pregnancy Fitness Plan can help you have a more comfortable and fit pregnancy (and helps you grow a healthier baby… learn more here).

Exercise Ball Abdominal Bracing

Sit straight up on your exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor, and be sure that there isn’t too much of a curve in your lower back. If you feel there is, roll your hips slightly forward on the ball.

Take a deep breath in and allow your stomach to extend. As you exhale squeeze your stomach muscles in as tightly as you can, and try to suck your belly button inward and upwards.

You should feel a tightening along the sides of your abdomen. If you don’t try rotating your hips slightly forward to flatten your lower back more and repeat.

Hold for a count of ten before releasing. If you count out loud while holding your core tightly you will remember to breathe.

Repeat in sets of 10.

the perfect pregnancy fitness plan

Super Pregnancy Exercise Ball Bridges

This exercise is perfect for your butt and hamstrings and even helps strengthen your pelvic floor!

Start by lying on your back against and slightly over the ball with feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.

Rotate your hips slightly upward, reducing the curve in your lower back and engaging your deep core. While maintaining this position you press through your heels to raise your hips upwards until your thighs and torso are in line with each other.

You should feel your glutes and hamstrings working hard to press your body upward. Pause for a moment at the top of the exercise and perform a kegel and then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and relax.

Repeat 15 times.

Stability Ball Wall Squat

This exercise is perfect for your quads, glutes, and core!

Start by placing an exercise ball against a wall. Then stand with feet shoulder-width apart and the exercise ball at the small of your back.

Press your lower back into the ball as you bend your knees to lower yourself into a squatting position. Allow the ball to roll upwards as you roll downwards. Keep your knees behind your toes and make sure not to let your knees cave in toward each other.

You should feel your quads and glutes working as you squat down. Pause for a moment at the bottom of the exercise and then press through your heels to raise yourself back up to the starting position.

Remember to keep your core tight as you perform this exercise by engaging your deep core muscles (your transverse abdominus).

Repeat 20 times.

Half Moon Ball Exercise for Pregnancy

This exercise is perfect for your obliques and core! You want to avoid abdominal workouts like planks and crunches during your pregnancy, but that does not mean exercising your core is off limits!

You want to focus on exercises that target your obliques and transverse abdominus for a pregnancy-safe core workout. That’s one thing I love about the Perfect Pregnancy Fitness Plan, it teaches you how to safely work your core and pelvic floor all throughout pregnancy to better support your baby so you have less pain, and less chance of getting a bad diastasis, and it even helps make labor easier!

Start with your knees on the floor sitting on your heels. Hold the exercise ball with both hands directly over your head.

Lower the ball to one side only as far as is comfortable and use your obliques to bring it back to the center.

Repeat on the other side.

Moving to the left then right is one rep. Do 10 reps.

Prenatal Core and Floor Ball Press

While sitting on your knees hold your exercise ball in both hands right in front of you.

Allow your stomach to fully extend as you inhale. Upon exhale press inward on the ball as hard as possible with control and do the abdominal bracing we mentioned before, by tightening your abdominal muscles and pulling your belly button in. At the same time perform a kegel and tighten up your pelvic floor.

This will feel as if you are engaging the muscles supporting your baby from your pelvis all the way to your ribs if you are doing it correctly.

If you find it too hard to perform a kegel in this position you can also do this exercise lying flat on your back with arms outstretched over you. However, if you are in the second half of your pregnancy you shouldn’t be lying flat on your back too much so in that case use a bolster.)

How Can You Use an Exercise Ball During Pregnancy for Labor?

There are a few different ways that you can use an exercise ball or a “birthing ball” for labor near the end of your pregnancy. From starting labor to progressing labor, a birthing ball can help along the way!

Using a Birthing Ball to Induce Labor

Near the end of your pregnancy, you are super uncomfortable and probably ready to try just about anything to speed up that baby coming out of you. At least that’s how I felt at 39 weeks every time.

There are many natural and safe methods (though some are just old wives’ tales) that can help bring labor on more quickly.

One factual method of inducing labor is bouncing on an exercise ball. You can do this any time, even while just relaxing and watching tv.

Simply spread your legs wide while sitting atop your birthing ball. Then bounce straight up and down. This position helps to prepare the body for labor, and help the baby shift into position, and the bouncing of the baby on the cervix may trigger labor to begin.

how to eat and exercise during pregnancy

Using a Birthing Ball to Progress Labor

There can be times when labor progress slows or even stalls (With my 3rd baby I was in labor 2 full days, but it stalled out completely in the middle for almost 12 hours! But I didn’t try to speed it back up, I chose to sleep instead since I was up the entire previous night with contractions.)

You can progress labor by sitting atop your exercise ball in a wide-legged stance and slowly rotating on the ball. Change directions every so often.

Use an Exercise Ball for Labor Positions

If you are lucky enough to be laboring in a place where you can actively change positions, an exercise ball is a great tool to use!

You can use the ball to sit on during contractions. You can slump over on it, lean into your partner while sitting atop it, or simply sit and do your best to relax.

Or you can lean over the ball with your torso or just your arms while your knees are on the ground. Sort of crouched over the ball. I found this to be extremely helpful in the peak of transition. I leaned on the ball with my elbows so I could keep my hands hanging and relaxed over it.

How to Use an Exercise Ball After Baby

When planning what to buy for my third baby the was definitely no expensive rocking chair or glider on my list, nope. It was a new exercise ball.

When your baby is upset, nothing soothes them the way that bouncing on an exercise ball does. Not a glider, not a swing, nothing.

Why you might ask?

Bouncing on an exercise ball most closely resembles the bouncing they felt for 9 months in your womb. This is a great trick even for a colicky baby (which is actually how I first discovered it. Searching at my wits end to calm my colicky baby.)

But you have to remember to do it safely. Hold baby close and fully support their head. You really want to support all of them and hold them very closely.

Don’t bounce so vigorously that it becomes dangerous, no matter how long they have been crying, especially when they are very young.

Wrapping Up Exercise Balls and Pregnancy

An exercise ball can be a great tool to use during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. You can use it to help induce labor, progress labor, and use it in various positions during labor. It’s also a great way to work your core muscles safely throughout your pregnancy, and can even be a huge help in the postpartum period.

Do you have an exercise ball? What is your favorite way to use it?

Have you used a birthing ball during labor? What position did you find most helpful?

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