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An Odd Ball Leads To Shorter Labor, Fewer C-Sections

peanut-shaped exercise ball
Isokenetics, Inc.

Christina Tussey is a clinical nurse specialist at Banner - University Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona.  She and her colleagues know a woman in labor needs to change positions – sitting, standing and walking-- to help progress delivery. She compares the process to removing a ring from a finger. “You don’t just take it off; you twist it around your knuckle to help it slide off” she says. “That’s what a baby needs,” she says, “different positions.”

However, finding those positions can require some creativity.  The hospital had already had birthing mothers sit on round exercise balls to help move things along.  But if a woman has an epidural injection, she loses feeling in her legs.  So they brought a new prop into the delivery room: an exercise ball that’s shaped like a peanut: narrow in middle and more rounded at the ends. “It fits really easily between their knees, and we used that to widen their pelvis,” says Tussey.

Tussey and other nurse researchers at the hospital conducted a controlled study with 200 women.  Those who used the peanut ball had shorter labor than those who did not.  And twenty-one percent of women assigned to the control group required cesarean surgery, compared to only 10 percent of women who used the peanut ball.

Now the ball is being used in delivery rooms across the seventeen-facility Banner Health system.