Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of a birth ball exercise programme during childbirth by measuring childbirth self-efficacy and childbirth pain. In addition, it tested the mediating effects of childbirth self-efficacy on the relationship between the birth ball exercise programme and childbirth pain.
Design: Randomised controlled trial.
Participants and setting: The study was conducted from December 2008 to November 2009, at two birth units, one at a regional hospital and one at a medical centre, with 600 and 1022 annual births, respectively. One hundred and eighty-eight expectant mothers were recruited (recruitment rate: 47%) and were allocated by block randomisation into the two arms of the study, but only 48 intervention and 39 control group participants completing the trial.
Interventions: The birth ball exercise programme consisted of a 26-page booklet and a 19-minute videotape, with periodic follow-ups during prenatal checks. All members of the experimental group were asked to practise the exercises and positions at home for at least 20 minutes three times a week for a period of 6-8 weeks. Each woman in the experimental group was given a birth ball for use during labour and encouraged every hour to choose the most comfortable positions, movements, and exercises. Both the experimental and control groups received standard nursing and midwifery care from hospital staff nurses in all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth.
Measurement and findings: When cervical dilations were four centimetres and eight centimetres, the women completed demographic and obstetrics information, the Childbirth Self-efficacy Inventory (CBSEI), and the short form of the McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ). Our study revealed that birth ball exercises provided statistically significant improvements in childbirth self-efficacy and pain. Specifically, self-efficacy had a 30-40% mediating effect on relationships between birth ball exercises and childbirth pain. Mothers in the experimental group had shorter first-stage labour duration, less epidural analgesia, and fewer caesarean deliveries than the control group.
Conclusions and implications for practice: Clinical implementation of the birth ball exercise programme could be an effective adjunctive tool to improve childbirth self-efficacy and reduce pain among women in labour. On the basis of our mediating model, the results further suggest that confidence is greater after prenatal preparation powerfully related to decreased pain perception and decreased medication/analgesia use during labour.
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