The giant, brightly-colored yoga balls in the corner of your local gym or yoga studio aren’t just great for physical therapy, core strengthening, or weight training – they’re actually an excellent resource for pregnant women.
The size of the yoga ball you need for pregnancy depends on your height. If you are 5’8″ or shorter, a 26-inch (65cm) ball is typically suitable. If you are taller than 5’8″, a 30-inch (75cm) ball is a better option. When seated on the ball, your knees should be about four inches lower than your hips.
The cushy surface lends a comfortable seat for women struggling with lower back pain and general discomfort from pregnancy.
You can use them throughout your pregnancy, during labor, while delivering, and even after your newborn arrives! But what size yoga ball is best for your pregnancy? Let’s find out.
What is the Purpose of a Yoga Ball for Pregnancy?
A yoga ball for pregnancy, often called a birthing ball, can be a helpful resource throughout your pregnancy and labor.
As you navigate the ups and downs of pregnancy, a yoga ball can be your best friend. It can alleviate lower back pain, which is something many pregnant women struggle with.
The give of sitting on a yoga ball can relieve some pressure and may change your baby from a posterior position to an anterior position, helping to combat pesky back pain.
It’s also an excellent way to exercise and prepare your body for labor. Various workout regimes designed specifically for pregnant women employ yoga balls to strengthen the stomach and back muscles, improve posture, and begin prepping your body for labor.
Delivering an eight-pound baby (or really any sized baby) is no walk in the park. As you enter the early stages of labor and progress toward delivery, you may struggle to find a comfortable position.
With a birthing ball, finding a semblance of a comfortable position can be more manageable. You can rock side to side or from front to back. Or, lean forward, resting your upper body on the ball. Some women sit on the ball and lean forward to rest their upper half on a table or bed.
It all depends on your baby’s position and what feels most comfortable for you.
When you begin active labor, and it’s time to start pushing, you may find that the ball comes in handy once again. Some women kneel on a pillow and lean forward on the ball, using it to support their upper half. This pose can be an excellent alternative to sitting or laying on your back, as these poses might be unbearable due to pelvic pressure.
After you welcome your newborn into the world, don’t store away your birth ball just yet. It can be a comfortable post in the days and weeks following labor, acting as a softer place to sit. After a vaginal birth, pain or pressure between the vagina and anus isn’t abnormal. This can cause discomfort while sitting, particularly on hard surfaces.
So, as you navigate the ins and outs of adjusting to your newborn’s schedule, use your birth ball to your advantage. Opt for it instead of hard chairs or stiff couches, using it as a cushier surface that alleviates pain down south.
You may find it even more comfortable to sit on after deflating it slightly, making it a bit cushier.
What Size Yoga Ball is Best for Pregnancy?
Like many things, yoga or birthing balls aren’t one-size-fits-all. Instead, they come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate varying heights and needs. The perfect size will hinge on factors specific to you, primarily your height.
Ideally, you should choose a ball that you can comfortably sit on. Your knees should be about four inches lower than your hips when seated on the ball. This is most comfortable for many women, as it provides the perfect height for various poses.
On top of that, it keeps the pelvis open during labor, helping to relieve some of the pain in your lower back and the general discomfort of pregnancy.
For the most part, a 26-inch (65cm) ball is perfect for women who are 5’8” or shorter. If you’re taller than 5’8”, a 30-inch (75cm) ball is the better option.
Most yoga balls are designed to handle various weights, so it usually doesn’t matter which one you choose. However, it’s best to choose one made of thicker material and labeled as burst-proof.
Yoga Ball Exercises to Try During Pregnancy
Once you purchase your yoga or birthing ball, the door to all sorts of exercises opens. Pump up your new birthing ball and try these low-impact exercises.
Note: Before exercising on a yoga ball throughout your pregnancy, please check with your doctor. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may recommend against certain exercises or exercising altogether, so check with your provider first.
Seated Ball March
This pose is great for strengthening the core, pelvic floor, quadriceps, and hip flexors. It targets your balance and stability while challenging your muscles just enough to feel the burn. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit on the yoga ball with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your core and straighten your spine, creating a good postural position. If you want to advance the exercise, lean back slightly.
- When you’re ready and stable, lift one foot off the ground, bringing your knee toward your chest.
- Hold the leg up for several seconds before slowly lowering it to the ground.
- Repeat the steps on the other leg, switching sides each time.
Note: If lifting your leg is too difficult or you don’t have the range of motion, lift your leg into a calf raise by pushing through your toes to raise your heel.
This pose is an excellent way to target the inner thighs (adductors) and glutes while challenging your core and hip stability. It teaches you how to activate and relax your adductors, which may alleviate pelvic girdle pain throughout your pregnancy.
- Sit on the ball, feet flat and about hip-width apart.
- Tighten your core and straighten your spine to achieve good posture.
- Form your hands into fists and place them between your thighs, closer to your knees than your hips. Your pinkies should press into your leg, whereas your thumbs should press into the other hand.
- When you’re ready, squeeze your thighs together around your fists, holding the contraction for several breaths.
- Relax the muscles to cease the pose, then repeat as many times as you feel comfortable with.
Glute Bridges with a Yoga Ball
Your glutes need love, too, so target them through this exercise. It also strengthens your thighs, hips, core, and hamstrings, but the glutes are the star of the show.
- Sit on a yoga mat on a solid surface with the yoga ball behind you.
- Lay back onto the yoga ball, planting your feet into the ground about hip-width apart. The ball should be positioned underneath your upper to middle back.
- Once you’re in position, squeeze your glutes and push through the floor with your feet to raise your hips skyward. Try to get your quads parallel to the floor at the top of the pose.
- Hold the bridge for a few seconds before slowly releasing the pose and lowering your hips.
- Lower your glutes to about 1-2 inches off the ground, then repeat the pose as many times as you feel comfortable with.