Most people who have been to births in hospitals have seen round birthing balls used during labor. They have become common in helping women labor through contractions and assists in opening the pelvis to prepare for birth. Recently in the last few years, peanut balls have been making more appearances during labor, especially with moms who choose to have an epidural, or need to rest. The peanut ball doesn’t slip or slide like a round ball, and will not become flat like a pillow would over time, keeping a woman's legs properly supported and pelvis open.
A few months ago I attended a birth where my client had been laboring for several hours and was becoming very tired. She was determined not to have an epidural, and was trying to cope through strong contractions after being induced with pitocin. Standing and seated positions were increasingly difficult since she was exhausted. Laying down during labor was not ideal to her during labor, but resting was becoming more appealing than struggling to hold her body up and fighting the contractions. I looked around the room for pillows to make her comfortable and during my search I found a peanut ball in the closet of her room. Her husband helped me position her onto one side in the bed and then placed the peanut ball in between her legs.
It immediately brought comfort and relaxation to lay down and effortlessly be able to keep her pelvis open. Within the next thirty minutes she was ready to start pushing! She was so surprised how quickly changing position and utilizing the peanut ball helped to make her complete and ready to give birth.
In 2011, The Arizona Republic reported on a study of peanut ball usage in one area hospital.
"Those who used the ball decreased the first stage of labor by nearly 90 minutes and the second stage by 23 minutes compared with a control group that did not use the ball.The real payoff came through lower C-section rates. The C-section rate for the group of women who used the ball was 13 percentage points less than for the group that did not use the peanut ball" (http://archive.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/business/articles/2011/09/04/20110904banner-health-peanut-ball-reinvent.html).
A peanut ball is thought to help by keeping the pelvis open; allowing the baby the room it needs to maneuver. It assists with fetal rotation (and also if a baby is posterior, breech, asynclitic) and descent by widening and opening the pelvis, shortening the active phase of labor (because baby is in a more optimal position) and shortening the pushing phase of labor. While peanut balls are fairly new to the birthing environment, studies are showing favorable results in their usage. They are an affordable tool to help make labor more comfortable for women who need to lay down or rest. I am looking forward to using my peanut ball with future clients and reporting on the results!