easy pregnancy ball exercises

9 easy pregnancy ball exercises you NEED to know

Pregnant women all dream of a straightforward pregnancy. One that they can enjoy with limited complications and that will end full term.

The reality is, sometimes our enjoyment of pregnancy and the stress of child labour can become a little more complicated.

I'm here to show you how simple exercises can put the enjoyment back into your pregnancy and eliminate the risks for you and your baby.

I have combined my experience of having a baby with research and the views of the experts to create Your Simple Guide to a Better Birth concluding with some of the best and easiest pregnancy ball exercises out there.

Article Contents

birthing ball

Why is exercise for pregnant women important?

Pregnancy is a huge learning curve for women. All of a sudden, your lifestyle choices affect the health of another person - your baby!

Global childbirth experts Gail Tully, Jean Sutton and Pauline Scot all agree that there is a common influence on complicated pregnancies.

Yes ladies, we have become far less active than what we used to be!

This lack of activity has contributed to a growing increase and an almost popular culture of giving birth with the help of labour intervention. This includes:

  • Induced labour
  • Caesarean section
  • Assisted birth

NHS statistics now show 1 in 5 women giving birth in the UK starts with induction of labour. A figure that has risen significantly over the last decade.

Whereas an NHS study of 18,426 pregnant women in 2017 found a staggering 41% did not deliver birth naturally:

  • 26% of births were C-Section
  • 15% of births were Assisted

How Women Give Birth Pie Chart

Artificial labour carries risks and potential consequences that you wouldn’t get with natural birth.

These can have a lasting impact on you and your baby. French obstetrician and childbirth specialist, Dr Michel Odent, certainly agrees.

Odent’s research identifies a trend with babies delivered by induced labour and an increase in the number of developmental disorders. For instance, children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Remember your body is designed to deal with pregnancy and to give birth naturally, sometimes we just need a little help.

Keep active and stay smart throughout your pregnancy for the ultimate reward!

Exercise tips for a better birth

Let’s not allow modern-day habits dictate how we give birth! As early as the first trimester, start by including pregnancy fitness as part of your daily routine. 

Leading experts in the field of maternal fitness agree that keeping fit and regular exercise can stack the odds of an uncomplicated birth in your favour.

What’s more, the best exercises for pregnancy are easy to do. They can be done in the comfort of your own home and they are beneficial even if done at a low intensity.

Dedicating some time is better than nothing at all.

Better management of your baby weight gain will reward a more comfortable pregnancy for you and your baby and have you far better prepared for the first two stages of labour.

Continuing gentle fitness towards the end of your third pregnancy trimester, by adopting forward leaning positions, can help your baby to turn into the correct position.

And of course, getting that body moving can improve your stamina, giving you the endurance for labour and the natural strength needed to assist your baby through the birth canal.

pregnancy ball

Ok so what is a birthing ball?

As far as adjusting to your pregnancy weight gain and preparing for birth, the birthing ball is an excellent multi-functional godsend with so many benefits! It really is a must in the birth plan of all pregnant women!

A birthing ball can be used as a:

  • Pregnancy ball
  • Labour ball
  • Postnatal ball

Can't I just used a gym ball?

You could use a gym ball during pregnancy but we wouldn’t recommend it. You won't benefit from the same flexibility compared to using a birthing ball.

Although both types are visually similar and appear to function in the same way, there is a definite difference between a birthing ball and an exercise ball that you would find in the gym.

Exercise balls designed for the gym are manufactured from thinner materials than a birthing ball, making sitting on an exercise ball while pregnant challenging to maintain your balance. Bouncing on an exercise ball when pregnant, rather than a birthing ball, can cause the ball to burst as it is not designed to hold your pregnancy weight.

All good birthing balls are designed to carry the added weight and are made from anti-burst materials.

Top Tip: Size matters!

Before you buy a birthing ball check what size birthing ball you need:

  • If you are up to 5 feet 10 inch in height use a 65cm birthing ball
  • If you are above 5 feet 10 inch use a 75cm birthing ball

pregnancy exercise ball

Better with a ball!

One of the major benefits of using a birthing ball for pregnancy exercise is that the ball helps with the burden of your pregnancy weight.

This allows you to focus on strengthening and releasing the tension in your muscles, joints and ligaments without worrying about losing your balance or losing control of your movements.

Birthing ball positions are simple to master and are adaptable for pregnant women of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Using a birthing ball during pregnancy is a fun way to engage your core, strengthen your key muscles, joints and ligaments without even realising you’re exercising!

Start to use the birth ball as early as the first pregnancy trimester, especially as your relaxin hormone levels will be at their highest at this time.

Continue engagement with the ball as you move through your pregnancy. Changing your focus to targeted birthing ball exercises in your third trimester will mean you are well accustomed with sitting positions to induce labour naturally.

You will also benefit from the familiarity of pregnancy ball exercises and will be able to assume birthing ball positions that are both comfortable and are able to relax you when labour contractions begin.

Top Tip:

Swap your office chair or sofa at home (not literally!) with a birthing ball.

Sitting on the birthing ball during pregnancy will naturally improve both your stability and posture as instinctively you will need to keep your balance with no backrest to slump back on!

sat on birthing ball at desk

How do pregnancy exercises help me?

Conditioning your body from as early as your first trimester is extremely important when limiting complications.

A recent 2018 study of 500 pregnant women, split into two groups of 250, concluded that of the 250 women who dedicated time to pregnancy exercises, on average, their experience of first stage labour was 53 minutes shorter than the 250 women who didn’t set aside time to exercise.

Their overall experience of labour was even less, on average 57 minutes shorter than those pregnant women who did not dedicate time to pregnancy exercises.

Regular fitness in pregnancy will also improve your stamina and enhance your pushing power. This can limit your need for assistance with the help of forceps or a vacuum device.

Avoiding assisted delivery can minimalise the risk of injury to the tissues of your vagina, perineum, and anus. These injuries may make it hard to walk or sit for some time afterwards.

A regular commitment to pelvic strengthening exercises can help to build up your pelvic floor muscles. They come under severe demand both during pregnancy and when giving birth naturally.

Natural pregnancy weight gain causes unusual stress on our muscles, joints and ligaments. This is because as pregnant women, our bones are not aligned in the same way as they were before pregnancy.

Regular Excersise Experience Shorter Labour Time

We may endure discomforts as we move through pregnancy week by week such as:

  • Pressure on the bladder
  • Body cramps
  • Backache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen ankles
  • Difficulty sleeping

This can leave us feeling very fatigued. All the more reason for us to rest, right!?

Yes, but in moderation. Rest is important during pregnancy but needs to be balanced with the correct movements and activity in between. 

Taking it too easy is a common mistake made by too many pregnant women. After all, what better way to spend the day than to cosy up under your blanket, slump back into your sofa and to watch episode after episode of your favourite boxset!

Before you know it, your pregnancy lifestyle can quickly become heavily lopsided with too much rest, kick-starting pregnancy complications for you and your baby.

To combat this, there are lots of good exercises to do when pregnant that can improve pregnancy and labour, limiting complications.

All the best exercises for pregnancy can be done in the comfort of your own home. And of course, physical activity for pregnant women can be made fun, releasing your feel-good hormones (endorphins) and give you a real boost!

What causes pregnancy aches and pains?

pregnancy back ache

A key contributor behind your pregnancy aches and pains is the relaxin hormone. Could the name be any more Ironic?!

During pregnancy, your placenta (the organ that provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby) will produce high levels of the relaxin hormone.

The job of this hormone during pregnancy is to relax muscles, joints and ligaments between your bones, particularly around your core. This is to accommodate your growing baby and support your pregnancy weight gain.

birthing ball

Unfortunately, this change makes it difficult for ligaments and other connective tissue to support certain joints. The softening of joints increases the stress on your pelvis and lower back, decreases stability and some of us pregnant women may notice it a little harder to balance.

Relaxin levels are at their highest in your first trimester to support implantation and placenta growth.

Levels drop but still remain high during the second and third trimester. This is to allow the ligaments in the pelvis to relax and stretch during birth.

Taking it easy will not resolve the issue but only emphasise the problem when you carry out the simplest of tasks as you move further through pregnancy week by week.

By including pregnancy fitness as part of our daily routine, we can realign, strengthen and ease the stress on our muscles, joints and ligaments during pregnancy.

Releasing endorphins during pregnancy exercise will not only trigger a positive feeling in your body, but this hormone will also interact with the receptors in your brain and help to reduce your perception of pain.

woman exercising on birthing ball

Top Tip:

Your growing uterus can cause your centre of gravity to shift and it harder to gain your balance. Pregnancy ball exercises with a birthing ball can help with stability!

3 easy pregnancy ball exercise tips

Why not combine these simple birthing ball techniques whilst you work from home, online shop or binge your favourite series!

Remember, sitting and engaging in soft movements on your pregnancy ball can strengthen your core, improve posture and help your baby to turn head down into an optimal fetal position. Try using your birthing ball for:

  • Gentle bouncing
  • Rocking forwards and back
  • Pelvic floor exercises

Enough about me, how does it help my baby?

My view on pregnancy exercise to help your baby is quite simple (it’s worked 3 times!)

Use the first and second trimester as a time to focus on building the strength you need to help push your baby down through the birth canal.

Reduce your focus (not completely) and use the third trimester as a time you begin to engage with your baby and conduct what is going to happen.

A lack of exercise in your first two pregnancy trimesters will only encourage inactivity in your third trimester. As you struggle under the demands of your pregnancy weight gain you will be left feeling very fatigued making it more difficult to help your baby into the optimal position for a natural birth.

Remember, inactivity promotes poor posture. Poor posture has been linked to an increase in the number of posterior babies at the end of pregnancy and at the latent phase of labour.

postpartum mum with baby

Childbirth educators, Jean Sutton and Pauline Scott, agree that if your baby is to get into the best position, you need to spend most of your time with your tummy forward, and knees lower than your seat.

Simple sitting and leaning positions with a pregnancy ball can help encourage labour. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby will be most comfortable lying with their back to your front. This term is known as an optimal fetal position.

Fetal position matters not only for comfort, but it also increases your chances of natural birth, limiting your chances of labour intervention and the potential consequences for your baby.

The process of identifying your baby’s position in the final months of your pregnancy is known as belly mapping.

Baby Womb Positions

The three Anterior positions (LOT, LOA, OA) are ideal for the start of labour. They limit complications and the potential risks of induced labour or caesarean section to your baby.

Including birthing ball positions and pregnancy exercises as part of your routine that adopt forward leaning positions, is a great way to engage and help encourage your baby into the correct position ready for birth, particularly in the third trimester.

When your baby is in the correct position, bouncing on your birthing ball can provide a gravity push that can help to dilate your cervix and naturally induce labour.

Studies show that regular exercise can shorten labour. A recent 2018 study of 500 pregnant women, found that those in the study who exercised regularly during pregnancy had a shortened labour by an average of 57 minutes, versus those pregnant women who did not exercise regularly.

Dedicating time to a stronger core will improve stamina and increase your pushing power, reducing the chances of an assisted delivery.

exercising on birthing ball

Avoiding the use of forceps or a vacuum device will reduce the risk of injury to your baby. These include injuries to your baby’s scalp, head, and eyes; bleeding inside the skull; and problems with the nerves located in the arm and face.

Top Tip:

As a precaution, always consult your maternity team or doctor first before engaging in any form of physical activity when pregnant!

9 easy pregnancy ball exercises for a better birth

So here it is, 9 easy pregnancy ball exercises for a better birth.

If fitness isn’t your thing, then simply bouncing on a birthing ball or gently rocking your hips can provide you with a mini-workout.

This is a fun way to keep active, improve your posture and balance, and will have you engage your core muscles without you even realising.

Side to Side Hips

Side To Side Hips Excercise

  1. Sit on your pregnancy ball, keeping your knees above your ankles.
  2. Move your hips from side to side.
  3. Transition your weight through your glutes as you move through the motion left to right.
  4. Feel the release in tension.
  5. Switch direction.
  6. Repeat motion as many times necessary, or until you begin to feel any signs of tiredness.

Kegels (Pelvic Floor Quick Flicks)

  1. Sit on the pregnancy ball, keeping your knees above your ankles.
  2. Put one hand on your chest and one on your tummy.
  3. Your tummy hand should move with your breath.
  4. Clench your glutes as if you’re trying to prevent a bowel movement.
  5. At the same time, tighten your vaginal muscles as if to stop the flow of urine.
  6. Take a deep breath and then squeeze and lift as you exhale.
  7. Do this exercise quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately.
  8. Repeat 10 quick flicks, three times a day, every day.

Core Ball Rollout

Pregancy Ball Rollout Step 1

Pregancy Ball Rollout Step 2

  1. Kneel in front of your pregnancy ball, keeping your knees hip-width apart.
  2. Rest your forearms on the ball and place your hands in loose fists.
  3. Keeping your back flat, brace your core and slowly roll the ball away from you.
  4. Straighten out your arms and extend as far as you can without allowing your hips to drop.
  5. Hold for 3 seconds.
  6. Bend your elbows to roll the ball back to your starting position.
  7. Repeat and work within the limitations of your body.

Wall Ball Squat

Wall Ball Squat

  1. Stand and position the pregnancy ball between the wall and the curve of your lower back.
  2. Place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, pointing your toes slightly outward.
  3. Whilst leaning on the ball, lower your body slowly into a squat.
  4. Bend your knees, keeping your shoulders level and hips square.
  5. Your pelvis should not go below knee level, stop when your quads are parallel to the floor.
  6. Hold for 3 seconds and then slowly return to your start position.
  7. Feel the release in your quads, glutes and abdominals.
  8. Repeat and work within the limitations of your body.

Childs Pose with Ball

  1. Kneel in front of your pregnancy ball with your knees hip-width apart.
  2. Place both hands on the ball and roll it away from you.
  3. Lower your head between your arms and lean forward.
  4. Push your glutes out.
  5. Relax and inhale deeply, as you exhale let yourself sink downwards.
  6. Hold for as long as comfortable and feel the release on your back, shoulders, neck and chest.

Wall Ball Push Up

Wall Pregnancy Ball Push Up

  1. Stand in front of a wall and hold your pregnancy ball at arms-length, keeping it at chest level.
  2. Open your arms just wider than your shoulders and press the ball against the wall.
  3. Keep your body straight and feet planted firmly on the ground.
  4. Inhale and lean into the ball, slowly bending each elbow and press your chest into the ball.
  5. Exhale and slowly press away from the ball.
  6. Straighten your elbows and body back into starting position.
  7. Feel the release in your quads, glutes and abdominals.
  8. Repeat and work within the limitations of your body.

One Leg Ball Lunge

  1. Rest your right foot on top of the pregnancy ball.
  2. Keep your left standing knee soft and do not lock.
  3. Place your hands on your hips or down by your side. Inhale to prepare.
  4. Push the ball back with your right foot until your shin and knee are resting on the ball.
  5. Bend your left knee forward making sure it doesn't move beyond your toes.
  6. Engage your left glute and lunge.
  7. Exhale and draw your abs in towards your spine.
  8. Hold for 5 seconds. Feel the release in your abdominals, quads and glutes.
  9. Straighten your front leg and inhale. Switch legs.
  10. Repeat and work within the limitations of your body.

Cat/Cow Pelvic Tilts

Cat Cow Pelvic Tilts Step 1

Cat Cow Pelvic Tilts Step 2

  1. Sit on your pregnancy ball, keeping your knees above your ankles.
  2. Place your fingers on the front of the ball.
  3. Let the ball roll you forwards and roll you backwards.
  4. Push your abdomen in and out, working in the opposite direction to the ball.
  5. Exhale as you draw your abs in, inhale as you release your abs out.
  6. Repeat motion as many times necessary, or until you begin to feel any signs of tiredness.

Rocking Ball Hug

Rocking Ball Hug

  1. Kneel in front of your pregnancy ball with your knees hip-width apart.
  2. Reach right over the ball, resting your upper and lower arm on the ball.
  3. Rest your chest on the front of the ball. Hands on the back of the ball.
  4. Keep your head straight and facing forward. Gently rock back and forwards, or left and right.
  5. Shift your weight through your glutes as you move through the motion and release that tension.
  6. Repeat motion as many times necessary, or until you begin to feel any signs of tiredness.

BABYGO® Birthing Ball

Ready for labour? Why not read our blog about how a Peanut Ball can help speed up the process and encourage a more comfortable delivery?

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