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Focus On: Peanut Balls and Labor


A $50 exercise ball means less time in labor and fewer C-sections for laboring moms

A research team led by nurses Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix conducted a study that confirmed the tremendous value of using a peanut shaped exercise ball to aid in labor and delivery. The results, including less labor time and fewer C-sections, have led Banner Health to make a peanut ball available for all laboring women in Banner hospitals.

Literature and experience tell us that while epidurals may reduce pain, they prolong labor by an average of 40 to 90 minutes and increase the risk of lengthening second stage labor (pushing) to more than two hours. In addition, epidurals are associated with an increased use of oxytocin and other pharmacologic agents to augment labor, higher numbers of births by cesarean section and more instrument-assisted vaginal deliveries, including the use of a vacuum or forceps.

Research also shows that varying a mother’s position and separating her legs during labor widens pelvic diameter. Doing so helps facilitate fetal rotation and/or descent while alleviating some of the pain associated with abnormal fetal presentation and prolonged labor.

To take the research a step further, Christina Tussey, MSN, CNS; Emily Botsios, BSN, RNC-OB; Richard Gerkin, MD; and Juany Gamez, RNC conducted a control trial at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix to assess whether using an exercise peanut ball could actually improve labor and delivery outcomes.

The trial included 200 pregnant women who were carrying a term baby  who had an epidural..  

Those using the ball had the device placed between their legs to help increase pelvic diameter and, in turn, allow more room for the fetus to descend. The position of these women, which for some included the semi-sitting position with the ball placed between their legs, was changed from side to side at least once every one to two hours.  

The study yielded staggering results including a decrease in the length of labor, reduction in cesarean deliveries, and a decreased  use of vacuums and forceps to  assist with delivery . Those using the peanut ball had their labor cut by about two hours.

Ultimately, Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix's research on a seemingly unconventional use of a $49.95 peanut ball illustrates that sometimes the simplest of solutions can net the greatest outcomes. As a result, all Banner Health hospitals make the peanut ball available to all laboring women.  


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