You have probably seen pregnant women with exercise balls either in the gym or a yoga class. They are essential as they help in preparation for labor, minimizing labor duration and pain. Despite this, you will likely hear that some pregnant women do not know how to use these exercise balls. Read on to discover more benefits of performing an exercise ball pregnancy workout.
Is Pregnancy Exercise With A Ball Okay?
Each woman has a different perception of staying safe during pregnancy. Some believe it is by avoiding any activity with an injury risk such as exercise. Others believe safety is by exercising to protect themselves and their unwanted child from various disease risks.
Many women who choose not to exercise do so for fear that exercises incorporating weights or balls may harm their unborn child. Unfortunately, that is only the case when you disregard exercise safe tips like maintaining the correct posture or technique.
Experts acknowledge that exercise balls can safely be incorporated into a pregnancy workout routine. However, they suggest you talk to your doctor to determine if you are clear to start such an exercise program.
Although these inflated balls seem harmless, they can pose various injury risks. The most common risk arises from poor posture.
Proper posture and alignment are two essential things you must not forget when sitting on an exercise ball during pregnancy. Also, note that these exercises require excellent stability and may not be suitable for every pregnant woman. So, first, consult with your doctor. Again, while experts recommend exercising using these balls, especially in the third trimester, they advise you to discontinue when you experience any of the following (5):
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Vaginal bleeding
- When you are out of breath
- Have an abrupt gush of fluid from the vagina or see some trickle of fluid leaking steadily
- Have a rapid or irregular heartbeat
Are Exercise Ball Workouts Effective?
Do not be fooled into thinking that an exercise ball pregnancy workout is ineffective because of the light ball you are using. Believe it or not, this ball targets almost every other muscle group in your body.
It will work your thighs, glutes, legs, and so forth, but depending on the exercise you perform. For example, performing a wall squat with an exercise ball works your glutes and legs. So, it is very effective in toning and giving your muscles a thorough workout.
WebMD suggests you perform ball exercises at least four times a week to help you build muscle mass and strength (1). However, you are not tied to these four workout sessions. You can always reduce or increase the sessions, but only after talking to your doctor.
Similarly, you may also need to stop performing an exercise ball pregnancy workout. This may be the case if you experience vaginal bleeding, intense headaches, dizziness, or muscle weakness (5). Again, call your doctor if you have such symptoms and let them recommend the way forward. Meanwhile, stop exercising.
What Exercises Can You Perform Using This Exercise Ball?
Many pregnant women end up using this ball as a couch for lack of knowledge of the ball exercises they can perform. They include:
A Squat With An Exercise Ball
Squatting in the third trimester but especially in labor is beneficial. It helps your pelvic outlet open up, which gives your baby more room to descend (6). As mentioned earlier, posture is critical, which is why you must maintain the correct squatting posture.
Seated Rowing With Resistance Tubing
For this exercise, you will need both the fitness ball and a resistance band or tubing. The movement is perfect for burning back fat and toning your upper body area (6). Nonetheless, altering the correct posture is highly likely due to a lack of coordination.
You might be so focused on the resistance bands that you forget to keep your back straight during the movement. Similarly, you might be so focused on the sitting arrangement that you disregard foot placement. These two actions have dire consequences.
In light of this, experts do not encourage beginners to do such an exercise.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are also effective workouts for pregnant women. They require women to contract their pelvic muscles and maintain a straight spine while on the ball. Remember that pregnant women are advised to not hold their breath at all.
These exercises are very effective in building glute strength, which is necessary for labor. However, these ball bridges may be uncomfortable for most women in their third trimester. If you cannot comfortably perform it, then stop before injuring yourself.
These are the most performed exercise ball workouts by women in the third trimester. A woman has to sit on the ball and ‘draw’ some circles on the floor using the ball (6). They are easy to perform but also risky if the proper posture is not maintained. The proper posture involves maintaining a straight back (6).
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Benefits Of Exercise Ball During Pregnancy
As most women approach the end of the third trimester, they start going almost everywhere with an exercise ball. You will find women past their due dates even opting to use this ball as a seat instead of their standard coaches. But why? It is all because of the benefits these inflatable balls bring to the table. They include:
Speeding Up Dilation
Dilation refers to the widening of the cervical opening to allow the baby to pass. Dilation of the cervix is the ultimate confirmation that a pregnant woman is going into labor. One way you can help speed up this process is by loosening up your muscles.
According to Medical News Today, this is possible using an exercise or birthing ball. The pregnant woman just has to sit on the ball and rock forward and backwards. Alternatively, they can move their body in circles while they are still sitting on the ball. These moves help in loosening the pelvis and relaxing it for delivery (3).
Shortening Labor Duration
Labor occurs naturally and in three phases. They are as follows:
- Phase 1: In this phase, your cervix dilates up to 3 cm, and your baby drops lower to the pelvis. Your body also triggers the production of prostaglandin that stimulates dilation (3).
- Phase 2: The cervix dilates to 10 cm enabling the woman to give birth.
- Phase 3: The midwife or doctor delivers the placenta, followed by cutting the umbilical cord.
A study shows that doing exercise ball pregnancy workouts in the third trimester decreases the labor duration. According to the study, women who used a birthing ball training program had a significantly shorter labor duration, specifically in the first two stages of labor (4).
Reduced Labor Pain
Exercising using a fitness ball can help reduce labor pain in several ways. The first one is by reducing the labor duration. As discussed above, these exercises help reduce the labor duration in phases one and two of labor. Therefore, a shorter labor duration decreases laboring time and pain.
Secondly, these exercises help reduce labor pain by encouraging faster cervix dilation or allowing your pelvis to open faster. The quicker it opens, the quicker you deliver and experience less pain than prolonged labor.
Exercising with these birth, fitness, or exercise balls can also promote weight loss. Remember that all it takes to shed pounds is to consume fewer calories than your body burns. When you limit your calorie intake, your body is forced to break down stored fat to get enough fuel.
Helps With Stretching
Performing exercise ball pregnancy workouts also helps in stretching your body. Stretching is crucial for pregnant women as it helps loosen tight muscles (2). It also helps in reducing tension in various muscle groups.
Toning And Muscle Mass Development
As mentioned earlier, these workouts target different muscle groups and help build lean mass strength and size. You do not have to lift weights to build lean mass or tone your legs, arms, or any other body part. Bodyweight and ball exercises can also do the trick.
Exercising, in general, helps in boosting an individual’s mood. This is because your body releases some feel-good hormones that help in reducing your stress levels, ultimately boosting your mood.
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Tips When Performing Ball Exercises
There are things you need to be aware of to help reduce injury risk and increase your array of benefits. These include:
- Using the ball on a soft surface. WebMD does not advise any individual to use an exercise ball on a tile or concrete floor. These two types of floors have an increased risk of falls and injury (1).
- Mastering how to use the ball. Although the ball comes with a lower risk of injury, you still need to master properly using it for optimal results. You can seek the services of a trained instructor to help you learn how to use an exercise ball properly.
- Maintaining the correct foot placement. Foot placement is vital when performing ball workouts. Most exercises require you to widen your feet for increased stability. However, it may change depending on the practice. So, read the steps of the exercise performed to determine the correct foot placement.
- Maintaining a straight back. Most ball workouts require you to keep a straight back as arching it will cause it to ache. This is one aspect of ball workouts that helps in improving posture.
The Bottom Line
Exercise ball pregnancy workouts are very effective for women, especially in the third trimester. They help in labor preparation and have been known to help decrease labor pain and duration, speed up dilation, promote weight loss, and help with stretching. However, make sure you talk to your doctor before incorporating any ball exercises in pregnancy.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Have a Ball With Exercise Ball Workouts (2014, webmd.com)
- Having a ‘Ball’ With Exercise (2003, webmd.com)
- How can people speed up dilation? (2018, medcalnewstoday.com)
- Outcomes of Exercise Training Following the Use of a Birthing Ball During Pregnancy and Delivery (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pregnancy: Exercise During Pregnancy (2021, webmd.com)
- Slide show: Pregnancy exercise (2020, webmd.com)