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Birthing balls and other equipment for labour

Birthing balls and peanut balls are two types of equipment you can use during labour that can help make you feel more comfortable.

Practice with them during your pregnancy. Getting used to them means you will feel confident using them when you go into labour.

Birthing ball

Sitting on a birthing ball can be a comfortable position when you are 'resting' during labour. It helps gravity to assist the birth of your baby. It also allows your birth partner to do some massage if you would like that.

When sitting on a birthing ball make sure it's inflated properly. This means that your hips are higher than your knees. This makes it easier to lean forward to widen your pelvis. Rocking back and forth can be soothing and helps your cervix stretch.

Get a ball with an anti-burst valve. Sometimes pumps are sold with the ball or the ball can be inflated at the air pump at a petrol station.

correct posture using a birthing ball
Birthing ball

Peanut ball

A peanut ball is oval in shape and narrower in the middle.

You may use a peanut ball if you need to remain in the bed. This could be due to epidural use, tiredness or other medical reasons.

The ball is usually placed between your legs to open your pelvis. You can be in a semi-reclined position with one leg over the ball and one leg to the side of the ball. Another recommended position is lying on your side with the ball between your legs.

Some research shows that women who use a peanut ball during labour have a shorter labour. They are less likely to need a caesarean birth.

These balls come in different sizes, so it is important to try them before buying. For most women, a 45 to 50 cm ball is appropriate. But if you are very petite you may prefer a 40 cm ball.

Correct use peanut ball
Correct use of a peanut ball

Page last reviewed: 4 January 2023
Next review due: 4 January 2026