In talking about using the ball I will refer to gravity. When the cervix and baby are being pulled by gravity, this is gravity plus, when the torso is parallel to the floor or bed this is gravity neutral. There is also a position called breaking position when you are on your knees and your head is lower propped up by two fists stacked on top of each other, this is gravity negative and is used to break from pushing before you get to 10 cms.
How do you use the ball in labor?
If you are sitting on the ball it is important that your legs are open wide and your feet are on the outside edge of the ball(the same width as if you were sitting backwards on a chair or backwards on the toilet). This helps keep your pelvic outlet wide. Because you are sitting on the ball the inside of your pelvis can relax because it is not working to hold you up like when you stand.
You can make hip circles as we already talked about. You can also do pelvic tilts and release (this moves the babys head between pubic bone and tailbone) and can help the baby wiggle down onto the cervix. Tipping the hips side to side shifts weight on the sit bones and this helps the baby wiggle down if they seem to be stuck on one side of the pelvis or other. I have had many students say they spend the last two weeks before their due date and lots of time in labor just moving their pelvis around until they feel what feels like the whole of the babys top of the head on the cervix.
You can bring the ball about a foot out in front of you and on your knees, hold onto opposite elbows and place arms and maybe chest on the ball for a variation of cat so that baby is gravity neutral. Or if you want to be gravity plus you can bring the ball right up to you and drape yourself over it with your big toes together and sitting back on your heels (in a upraised pose of a child). It is very comforting to just rock side to side and it is a gentle way to move the baby from sit bone to sit bone letting them slowly wiggle down.
You can squat with the support of the ball, either in front of you or behind you. If you squat with the ball behind you place the ball up against the bed or a wall and then get your sacrum on it, this helps you to get really straight in your back with lots of support and helps stretch out the perineum and get the babys head moving down. It also is easier on the shins and the ankles!
Some women talk about bouncing on the ball during labor. That wouldnt be comfortable for me, but if it works for you use it! Light bouncing is very comforting to a newborn tho and a great place to nurse a colicky baby, especially in the kitchen with lights off and the kitchen fan going!
You can also have your birth partner sit on the ball and you squat with the ball at your back and your arms draped over the partner. You can also do cat leaning on your partner while they sit on the ball or even pose of a child and then can gently rock you. Here your partner could stroke your neck or stroke your bare skin with the back of their fingernails (this releases endorphins-the feel good hormones)…if it doesnt feel good, dont do it!
Notice when you play with the cat or pose of a child positions with your birthing partner sitting on the ball that this rocks you differently than when you drape yourself on the ball. Some people will find this more relaxing. See what feels comfortable for you. Play around with this before labor, so you know what works for you. Trust that what makes you feel good in your pregnancy will help you relax during labor so your body can do the work it is trying to do.