What’s the Fuss About Peanut Balls?

If you’ve taken any childbirth classes, toured your local hospitals and birth centers…or talked to any doulas for any length of time, you’ve probably at least heard mention of the so-called magical properties of the peanut ball. This unassuming, smallish, peanut-shaped physical therapy ball couldn’t really be super useful during labor…or could it?

So What is a Peanut Ball Anyway?

A peanut ball is an exercise ball, similar to a yoga ball, but smaller – and shaped, like the name suggests, as a peanut. The peanut ball is typically used in physical therapy exercises to help with mobility, positioning, and comfort. They come in a few different sizes ranging from 40 centimeters to 70 centimeters, to accommodate the differences of height and weight among users, but the typical size of peanut ball used during labor is 50 centimeters. Like most other exercise balls, peanut balls are made of anti-burst PVC for safe bounciness, and come in a variety of colors.

How Does a Peanut Ball Help During Labor?

Almost everyone knows about bouncing on yoga balls before and during labor, but the peanut ball mostly gets the love from doulas and nurses. A peanut ball is often used when the laboring person is in bed, in the side-lying position. The peanut ball is placed between the legs to open them up comfortably, saving the support person’s back and arms!

Think about most of the movements that you have heard recommended for facilitating a smooth and comfortable labor. Walking, swaying, slow dancing, toilet sitting, squatting, hands and knees, and so on – these are all movements that help open the pelvis and move the baby down lower and lower.

That’s great, but what if you have an epidural, an injury or disability, are on bedrest, or are just plain exhausted from a long labor? That’s where our friend the peanut ball comes in…

How to Use a Peanut Ball During Labor

When any of these challenging scenarios arise during labor, the peanut ball can be brought out. You can try lying on your side in the bed with one leg raised, and your doula or nurse can tuck the peanut ball in between your thighs or under your knee, adjusting it until you are comfortable. A pad or sheet will be tucked in between the ball and your skin for cleanliness.

Then, your support person will place their hand on your leg and gently rock your hips back and forth, using the buoyancy of the ball. This gentle swaying movement helps to mimic the pelvic-opening movements and positions that you would otherwise not be able to do while in bed! After several contractions in this position, your doula or nurse will help you turn on to your other side to ensure evenness.

This can help you have a quicker and more comfortable delivery, according to our experience – and there are even a couple of studies out there providing evidence to support the theory, as well.

Do You Need to Get Your Own Peanut Ball for Birth?

Most hospitals and birth centers are now providing peanut balls for their patients to use during labor (ask during your tour, just to be sure!), and some doulas have them for use as well, so you probably do not need to buy your own peanut ball.

However, here are a few reasons you may want to buy your own peanut ball:

  • you are a germaphobe!
  • your chosen birthing location does not have them available for use
  • you are a smaller or taller person and require a special size peanut ball
  • you prefer a particular color or cover
  • you think you may need the peanut ball again for home use

If you do decide to purchase your own peanut ball, look for one that is made of anti-burst PVC for safety, and be sure to get the right size. A 40cm peanut ball is great if you are a short and petite person, a 50cm peanut ball is considered average, and a 60cm peanut ball would be recommended for tall and/or plus-size folks. The 70cm peanut ball is not typically recommended for use during labor, though you could sit or lean on it if you liked.

You can also purchase cute covers and carriers for your peanut ball if desired. Here is a great place to purchase a peanut ball for birth.

Have you ever heard of the peanut ball or used it during birth? What did you think?