Close Close
Mother and Baby

Birthing balls: everything you need to know

Section: Labour & Birth
All you need to know about birthing balls

You’ve probably heard a lot about birthing balls, but if you’re wondering what all the hype is about (and whether that yoga ball in the loft will do) we’ve made this go-to guide.

Answering the most common birth ball questions is One Born Every Minute midwife Hana Pauls from Liverpool Women’s Hospital, who explains just why this inflatable ball really is your best friend during labour.

What’s the benefit of using a birthing ball?

Not only can a birth ball help reduce back pain, it is said to ease labour pains and reduce the pain of contractions. It can also help you move your baby into the right position for an easier birth.

Are birthing balls the same as exercise or yoga balls?

Effectively, yes! Sometimes cheaper exercise balls will deflate faster than specialist birthing balls, so make sure it’s fully inflated before birth. Also, some birthing balls will have a non-slip finish which is important. One thing to check is the size of the ball, as some yoga balls are much smaller than you think when you inflate them – ideally your birth ball should be 65cm (26in) or 75cm (30in) when inflated.

What size birthing ball do I need?

Knowing what size to buy can be difficult, yet this is one thing you need to get right. One Born Every Minute midwife Hana explains “you want to be able to sit with your feet comfortably flat on the ground. If you’re having to tip toe, it’s too big. Likewise, if you feel too close to the ground and your knees are positioned higher than your tummy, it’s too low.

“Ensure the ball can take your weight. Instructions on the box can tell you the maximum weight.”

Ideally, your knees should be about 4 inches lower than your hips when you sit on it, so as a rough guide, if you’re shorter than 5ft 8, it’s best to get a 65cm ball. If you’re taller than this, opt for a 75cm ball.

What are the best birth ball exercises to try during labour?  

Midwife Hana Pauls explains ‘birthing balls are wonderful at really opening up the pelvis. Ensure you have someone standing behind you to steady you, then sit on the ball, opening your legs wide with your toes pointing outward, so your feet are at what we call a 10 to 2 position.

“From here, keeping your upper body still, imagine that you are sitting inside a barrel and have a cloth tied around your hips. Without using your hands, you’re going to circle your hips to clean the inside of the barrel. This type of circling the hips is especially helpful in getting your baby into a favourable position and for bringing the head down. This helps put an even pressure on the neck of the womb to open it up. Carry on circling on the ball for 20 minutes – ten minutes one way, then change direction.

“In labour you can also lean forward on the ball whist kneeling for support. This allows you rock back and forth with ease.”

Can a birthing ball induce labour?

Midwife Hana explains “you can use a birthing ball to prepare for labour, or during labour, however it doesn’t induce labour per se! In the early stages of labour, the birthing ball can bring on surges if a woman sits on the ball and does rotations or the circle exercise mentioned in the previous question on them.”

How common are birthing balls in labour? 

There’s a reason why you’ll have heard a lot about them whilst getting your birth plan ready! According to Hana, “birthing balls are very common in labour, in fact, every single one of our birthing rooms are furnished with at least one if not two birthing balls. We’re crazy about birthing balls – they are such a wonderful tool and labour aid. I’d really recommend you make sure one features in your labour; if you’re planning a hospital birth, make enquiries to check that they have one, and buy one if you plan on a home birth.”

Can I use a birthing ball to help break my waters?

This is a complicated answer, as nobody really knows how waters break. Midwife Hana explains “I have known many women to state with great conviction that the birthing ball helped to break their waters! In truth nobody really knows why a woman’s waters break, so there’s no harm in trying to use a birth ball. Saying that, the longer the waters are in place the more cushioning you and baby have when the surges begin.”

Should I practice on my birthing ball before labour?

Yes! It’s important to get used to sitting on the ball, so get it inflated and practice the exercises mentioned above. When trying the ball for the first time, place it on a carpet rather than a smooth floor, as this will reduce the movement. Also, it’s a good idea to have someone stood behind you to help you get balanced. Remember, barefoot is best, but if not, make sure you have non-slip shoes or socks on.

Where can I get a birth ball pump?

Depending on where you buy your ball, a lot of them will come with a pump, however if not, a foot or bike tire bump should help. 

Where can I buy a birthing ball? 

Birth balls are pretty easy to get hold of - you'll find plenty of them online. We've picked some of our favourites for you to choose from here


You can watch Hana and her fellow midwives on One Born Every Minute, Tuesdays on Channel 4 at 9pm. 

Related content:


No comments have been made yet.

Chinese Gender predictor
Chinese Gender Predictor

Is it a boy or a girl? Tell our tool the month you concieved and how old you are and find out! 

Nappy rash is painful for parents as well as for your baby
Nappy rash is painful for parents as well as for your baby

Read Dr Pixie's guide to learn how to deal with nappy rash

The Magic Sleepsuit
The secret to a quiet night’s sleep – The Magic Sleepsuit

If you’re little one is struggling to settle now they’ve outgrown the swaddling stage, this could be the answer to your sleep-deprived prayers!

Celebrating parenting's small wins
Celebrating parenting's small wins

As mums, we're constantly told to enjoy every moment; in reality, parenting can sometimes be challenging. That's where small wins come in...

Subscribe to Mother&Baby

Be the best mum you can be and let Mother & Baby guide you along the way. Each issue is jam packed with REAL advice from mums just like you. Subscribe today & get a free welcome gift!

Ovulation Calculator
Ovulation calculator
Trying for a baby? Work out when you're most fertile to increase your chances of getting pregnant with our easy-to-use ovulation calculator.
Pregnant woman
Due Date Calculator

When is your baby due? If you’re having trouble remembering dates and counting up the days on your fingers and toes, don’t worry – use our due date calculator.

Get M&B in your inbox!

Sign up to Mother&Baby today and get news and advice about your body and your baby straight to your inbox every week. 

Lemonade Money
It’s time to make sure your loved ones are protected

Every parent knows the importance of planning ahead; from the new school shoes, to your little one’s education, you want to fill their future with hopes and dreams. Yet are you one of the 80% of adults here in the UK that has no life cover?