Most people are familiar with standard birth/yoga/exercise balls. They’ve become more popular over the years and have many different uses, including building core strength during more sedentary activities, and as a way of staying upright and active during labour.
This inflatable rubber ball comes in many different sizes. Depending on your height and weight, the size can mean the difference between having a useful labour tool and just a really uncomfortable seat.
While the birth ball is an excellent tool, it isn’t the only inflatable device that can assist a mother during labour. The peanut ball is like a sister tool to the birth ball and offers some additional benefits for labouring women.
What Is A Peanut Ball?
A peanut ball is made from the same material as a birth ball and is also inflatable. However, instead of being shaped like a ball it is shaped like a peanut – hence the name.
Like the birth ball, it comes in multiple sizes. Your height is usually the best way to choose the right sized peanut ball.
- If you’re 160cm (5ft 3in) or less, a 45cm peanut ball is recommended
- If you’re between 160cm and 170cm (5ft 3in–5ft 7in), a 50cm peanut ball is recommended
- If you’re over 170cm (5ft 8in) or you’re a plus size, you might find a 60cm peanut ball most comfortable
There are peanut balls larger than 60cm, but they are typically recommended only to sit or rest on and might not offer any more benefits than a regular birth ball.
How Does A Peanut Ball Help During Labour?
We know that being upright and active, and having asymmetrical hips can help labour to progress, and facilitate baby’s movement down the birth canal. Often, the more active and mobile a mother is, the better her labour progresses.
Read more about Giving Birth Upright – 9 Huge Benefits
We know that lying in the lithotomy position has the potential to slow labour. You lose gravity, the lack of movement does not help baby to move down the birth canal, and the lack of asymmetrical hips can mean up to 30% less pelvic space for baby to navigate through.
But what if you want or need to rest during labour? What if health concerns mean you need to be in bed? What options do you have to help labour progress when you’re unable to be active and upright?
Well, the peanut ball can help. It can better align your hips when you need or want to be in bed. It can even be useful during births where an epidural is given. One study found that using the peanut ball after an epidural had been administered reduced both the first and second stages of labour.
The peanut ball can be used in a variety of labour positions. When placed between a mother’s thighs while she’s semi-reclined or lying on her side can facilitate a hip alignment that is similar to being upright. Alternating between resting on the left and right sides, and being in a semi reclined position can also have some of the same benefits – that is, having asymmetrical hips, as she would from being upright and moving around.
Should I Buy A Peanut Ball For Labour?
Many women have utilised regular birth balls, pillows and other items during labour and found them to be helpful. However, the peanut ball’s unique shape has added benefits, such as hip alignment, which facilitates dilation and pelvic space.
Pillows and cushions often flatten with prolonged use, don’t offer as much support, and might slip or change position quickly. The peanut ball’s firm but flexible shape is comfortable, without causing any of these problems.
If you’re interested in having access to a peanut ball for labour, contact your birthing facility or maternity care provider. Some labour wards, birthing centres and homebirth midwives keep peanut balls on hand for labouring mothers.
If your birthing facility doesn’t have a peanut ball, or only a limited number, you might consider purchasing one. A peanut ball can be helpful during any labour, but it’s especially helpful during one which might require time in bed.
Does A Peanut Ball Replace The Benefits Of Being Upright And Mobile?
While a peanut ball has been proved to be helpful during labour, especially when an epidural has been administered, there are still many benefits to labouring in an upright position.
Many labouring women find that gravity helps their labour to progress. Movement can also be a comfort technique. Swaying, walking, and even dancing, can help reduce discomfort in labour, as well as facilitate baby’s movement into the optimal position to navigate the birth canal.
Like many comfort techniques and positions for labour, a peanut ball is one more useful item in your ‘toolbox’ to help you during birth.
What you find most helpful during labour will depend on many things. However, knowing your options and preparing different techniques before birth can help your labour to run more smoothly. If you’re interested in utilising a peanut ball during labour, you can discuss this prenatally with your midwife/OB, doula and labour support.
See a range of peanut balls available on Amazon.
This article’s image was sourced from this clip.