Photo courtesy of Premier Birth Tools
Cheri Grant is known as The Peanut Ball Lady, and her mission is to teach the world about the effectiveness of peanut balls (peanut-shaped exercise balls) in labor. She trains other professionals to become authorized peanut ball trainers, and two of these trainers – Amy Bookwalter and Amy Emerson – will be presenting the DONA International preconference workshop “Advanced Peanut Ball Techniques: Lowering Cesarean Births with Positions.” We asked Cheri to give us a little bit of background about her interest in peanut balls and their value in labor support. — Adrianne Gordon, CD(DONA), MBA, Blog Manager
How did you discover the peanut ball and become interested in it as a tool for doulas?
I was looking for something new to teach doulas in my doula training, and I came upon a study by a nurse at Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ (the first to use peanut balls in labor). The nurse, Tussy, had received reports that peanut balls helped women avoid cesareans. She was curious, and she tested and reported on this new idea, which is the report that I came across. (Here’s more info about the report: Tussey, Botsios, Gerkin, Kelly, Gamez, Mensik, “Reducing Length of Labor and Cesarean Surgery Rate Using a Peanut Ball for Women Laboring with an Epidural” The Journal of Perinatal Education, 24(1), 16–24, http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1058-1243.24.1.16)
I was intrigued, and I called a nurse on the night shift at Banner Health who said that the peanut balls were working really well for their patients. She also told me that they originally started using the peanut ball because the pillows they used in between patient’s legs kept falling and sliding. They replaced the pillows with the peanut ball and had great success!
After speaking with the nurse, I tried the peanut ball on a few clients, and I was amazed. I learned as much as I could and then started teaching doulas and nurses how to use it. I was also able to quickly get peanut balls available at 13 area hospitals within six weeks by giving in-services, and it took off from there!
After its quick success, I learned more about positioning, how to use it effectively and which size worked well with which client in different positions. I have now sized hundreds of clients and taught more than 500 in-services to nurses and doulas on the proper use of the peanut ball.
We’re really excited about the evidence based research on peanut balls that has happened over the last two years, and especially in the last few months. This research, as well as clinical trials, will be discussed in the workshop.
What will doulas who use the traditional round birth balls learn about peanut shaped balls that might surprise them?
I want everyone to know that the following information:
- One size does not fit all clients
- Different positions require different sizes of peanut balls
- Peanut balls can be used for comfort and positioning a client to facilitate the birth
Why is positioning so important to help support a client in having a vaginal birth?
If a baby is stuck in a certain position, or a client’s labor is stalled, you have to move the woman to move the baby. It’s just like having a ring stuck on your finger. You don’t pull it straight off; you twist and turn to get the ring off the finger. In labor, you have to move the woman to get the baby out.
What are some resources on the importance of positioning to reduce the risk of cesarean birth?
We have lots of information about peanut balls and positioning on our website: premierbirthtools.com. We also have a packet, created just for doulas, with lots of helpful information. We’ll go more in depth at the workshop, but this information is a great for anyone wanting to learn more. For those at the workshop, we’ll go through seven traditional peanut ball positions and more than five new positions, including the BEST position to use.
Is there anything a doula should do in preparation for this session?
This is a fun and interactive workshop, so I’d recommend dressing in comfortable clothes. Be ready to practice, and be prepared to have fun!
I love talking about peanut balls, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Enjoy the workshop at the 2016 DONA conference!