By Gabriela Ammann
If you have ever given birth, or supported someone who has, you may be familiar with the use of exercise balls (or "birth balls" as we call them) as a comfort tool to help labor progress. Recently a new ball has been making the rounds of labor and delivery, and this one comes shaped like a peanut.
Like the birth ball, the peanut ball began its lofty career as a tool for physical therapy and strength training. In recent years resourceful nurses and doulas have adapted its use to support women who have epidurals during labor. Why? Well, with an epidural, the laboring woman is required to stay in bed, and this limits her ability to be upright and mobile. The problem is that for some women being in bed for a long time can slow down labor and result in more medical intervention, even a csection.
As it turns out, the peanut ball is just the right size and shape to address this issue. Narrow in the middle, the peanut ball can be placed between the legs (not something you want to try with a birth ball!) and is large enough to open the pelvis by quite a bit. This helps make lots of room in the pelvis for the baby to rotate and descend, despite the fact that mom is lying down.
Initial research about the peanut ball shows some promising results. In 2011, a hospital in Arizona did a study about its effectiveness with epidural use and found the peanut ball helped shorten labor time by 90 minutes, and decreased cesarean sections by 13%.
The peanut ball is also useful for moms laboring without pain medication. Similar to a birth ball, the peanut ball supports laboring positions like sitting, rocking, and forward-leaning.
If you or someone you know is expecting a baby, and would like to add the peanut ball to your labor tool kit, an internet search will bring up multiple online retailers that sell them. Also, Healthy Start Brooklyn will be distributing peanut balls to labor and delivery wards in hospitals across Central Brooklyn, so make sure to ask about their availability at your next prenatal visit or hospital tour.