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Stability Ball Exercises for Pregnancy and Labor

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One of the best and most important tools during labor is a stability or birth ball. One way to be confident in using the ball during labor is to incorporate it into your daily life. This is why exercising on it and practicing moves you'll be using during labor throughout your 9 months is very beneficial.

There are many benefits of using the ball to enhance your pregnancy mat routine. Especially toward the end of pregnancy, the ball will become a very comfortable way to exercise. It also creates stability and strength in the core without stressing this area, which is of utmost importance during pregnancy.

Some important benefits of using the birthing or stability ball during pregnancy are:

  1. The spine will automatically find its natural curves as soon as you sit on the stability ball.
  2. Because the ball is unstable, the body is in constant motion and this is what helps build the postural muscles and the core.
  3. The ball supports loosening and unstable joints.
  4. The ball gives support, allows one to exercise safely and creates a less strenuous workout for those close to their due date.
  5. It helps greatly with circulation because of the constant motion of the body on the ball.
  6. Circulation can lessen during pregnancy causing swelling and heaviness. The right kind of exercise and movement can make all the difference.
  7. By just sitting on the ball the pelvic floor and other stabilizing muscles automatically start to work.
  8. Bouncing gently on the ball also helps to tone and work the pelvic floor.
  9. Working on the ball encourages both the elastic and contractile qualities of the pelvic floor and therefore makes it a very balanced, healthy workout for the pregnant body.

Here are a few pregnancy stability ball exercises to try:

BREATH WITH RIB CAGE ARMS
This sequence prepares and warms the body for exercise.

  • Sit on top of the ball with a neutral spine and pelvis.
  • Keep the spine in neutral and still as you move the arms.
  • Inhale into the belly and lift the arms overhead with the palms to the ceiling.
  • Exhale and slowly lower the arms with the palms facing the floor.
  • Repeat 4 to 6 times.

SCAPULA GLIDE
This sequence helps to create and help keep a natural glide of the shoulder blade (scapula) along the back of the ribcage.

  • Sit on top of the ball with a neutral spine and pelvis.
  • Lace the fingers together with the palms facing out.
  • Inhale into the belly and lift the arms over head keeping the fingers laced.
  • Exhale and slide the shoulders toward your ears
  • Inhale and slide the shoulders away from your ears.
  • Do 2-4 sets and then reverse the breathing.
  • Inhale slide the shoulders into the ears.
  • Exhale and slide the shoulders away from the ears.
  • Do 2-4 sets.

SIDE BENDS

This sequence is to open up the side body by stretching the tissue between the ribs. Some pregnant women experience anterior rib pain when doing lateral flexion. If so, just leave it out.

  • Sit on top of the ball with a neutral spine and pelvis.
  • Lace the fingers together with the palms facing out.
  • Inhale and take the arms over the head keeping the fingers laced.
  • Exhale and slide the shoulders away from the ears.
  • Inhale and side bend making a side "C" curve with the spine.
  • Exhale and return to the upright position.
  • Inhale and "C" curve to the opposite side.
  • Exhale and return to the starting position.
  • Do 2-4 side bends on each side.

PELVIC CURL AND ARCH
This sequence stretches the lumbar spine, strengthens the abdominals and pelvic floor.

  • Sit on top of the ball with a neutral spine and pelvis.
  • Rest the hands on top of the legs.
  • Inhale and lengthen through the spine.
  • Exhale and rock the tail between the legs, making a "c" curve with the spine.
  • Inhale and return to neutral
  • As you curl imagine you are trying to push the ball forward.
  • As you return to neutral ,tall spine imagine you are trying to push the ball back.
  • Do 6-8 in each direction.

HIP STIRS
This sequence opens and stretches the hips and warms the spine.

  • Circle the hips 4 to 8 times in each direction. Start by isolating the movement in the hips and keeping the eyes to the horizon.
  • At first go slow and find the side arch , full center arch, side arch and curl. Once you are confident with the movement start to connect it and move more fluidly.
  • If comfortable you can add the eyes and upper body into the arch, side bend and curl.

Join us next time for more pregnancy exercises on the stability ball.

For more stability ball exercises while you're pregnant, I recommend The Pilates Way to Birth by Carolyne Anthony, a great resource for pregnancy stability ball exercises with great photos.

 

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