What to Know About a Peanut Ball for Labor

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on July 17, 2023
3 min read

If you are at the end of your pregnancy and need help progressing through the stages of labor, a peanut ball can help open your pelvis and speed up your labor.

A peanut ball is just what it sounds like, a yoga ball that is shaped like a peanut. It has two larger ends that taper in at the middle. During labor, you place a peanut ball between your legs to help you progress through the stages of labor faster.

It's especially helpful if you can't get out of bed and walk or move around. Your labor may be stalled because of an epidural, health complications, or fatigue from the length of your labor.

A peanut ball’s curves help to encourage your body to relax in a way that speeds up the dilation of your cervix and your baby lowering into the birth canal. Your doctor or nurse may suggest one of two common uses to help progress your labor, depending on your needs. Each body and labor is different, so you may tweak the technique to fit your individual needs. It's important to use a peanut ball in a way that is comfortable to you during labor.

Semi-reclining position. Using a peanut ball while you lean back helps you to dilate and your baby to drop lower. In this position, you place one leg over the peanut ball and your other leg to the side of it. Once you're in a comfortable position, your doctor or nurse moves the ball up toward your hips. You can alternate positioning each leg on top or to the side when you need to move.

Side-lying position. This position is a great way to encourage your baby to move into a safe position for labor. Your baby may not be turned correctly, putting you both at risk for a difficult delivery that may end up in a cesarean section. You’ll lay on one side or the other and place the ball between your legs with one leg propped up on top. The doctor or nurse may bend your top leg over the narrow part of the ball to open your pelvis more.

Birth professionals consider a peanut ball a more relaxing birth option than a standing ball. It is proven to speed up labor and delivery in a safe and non-invasive way. In fact, studies show that using a peanut ball shortens the first stage of labor by 29 minutes and has the potential to cut your second stage of labor in half.

Many hospitals and birthing centers offer peanut balls for use during labor and delivery. If you want to buy your own to use for a home birth or take to the hospital with you, they're available for purchase online. Keep in mind that you want to choose a ball that is the appropriate size for your body. If you have doubts about what size to order, talk to your doctor before making a purchase.

If the ball is too big, it may lead to discomfort during labor and put stress on your hip joints. The ball is measured from the floor to the larger point around either end of the ball. 

The most common sizes are 40 and 50 centimeters. If you have a petite build and are 5 feet, 3 inches, or shorter, the 40 centimeter ball is likely to be a good fit. If you're between 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 5 feet, 6 inches tall, you might want to purchase the 50 centimeter ball. The largest size available is 60 centimeters and is the best choice for women who are taller than 5 feet, 6 inches.