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My Baby Is Breech! What Can I Do?

More and more I’m reading reports of worried moms leaving scans as early as 28 weeks having been informed that their baby is breech. Moms then spend the next several weeks stressed, anxious and doing strange things with frozen bags of peas and flashlights in an attempt to coax their baby into a head down position and avoid cesarean surgery. Before 36 weeks, your baby has plenty of room to flip into multiple positions several times a day (and probably once or twice before dawn too).

First things first - less than 5% of babies stay breech (bum first) at full term, so you have plenty of time and still have options to consider.
 
The position of your baby is really of no importance until you reach 35-36 weeks… then your midwife/Doctor will start to focus a little more on the ‘plan’ if your baby stays in a breech position. 

External Cephalic Version

Ask if there’s a breech clinic in your hospital if you haven’t already been referred for an External Cephalic Version – this is an external manipulation of your baby to nudge him into a head down position – the success rate is about 50% but it’s definitely worth a try before agreeing to major abdominal surgery (cesarean birth). 

ECV is an option for most healthy moms with no complications including women who have had a previous cesarean birth.  An ECV is not a gentle massage but quite firm and can be quite uncomfortable (but it’s usually over quickly) and if your consultant feels too much resistance they won’t continue. If you find it very painful you can always ask to stop. 

You can see how an ECV is done here: 

Complimentary therapies include acupuncture (moxa), Spinning Babies exercises, hypnosis (deeply relaxing and oxygenating the uterine muscles gives baby more room). There is a Breech Baby Turn hypnosis session in the GentleBirth App.

I usually recommend mothers use it for 10 days and does acupuncture sessions also. In one research paper on the use of hypnosis 80% of babies turned and stayed head down. There is also the Webster Technique facilitated by a Chiropractor. But other than hypnosis and acupuncture there are very few good studies on the effectiveness of these therapies.

Moxibustion Therapy For Breech:

Although less common, breech vaginal birth can be a safe option as long as the careprovider is skilled in breech birth. The type of breech will also determine if a vaginal birth is a safe option (Frank breech is considered the safest). For a first time mom, you may have to do a little research to find a consultant willing to support a vaginal breech birth. 

It’s important to weigh up the pros/cons of a vaginal breech birth and a planned cesarean – both carry risks for mom and baby. New research suggests a breech birth without an epidural is beneficial for mom and baby as mom can move into positions that encourage her baby to move through the pelvis more easily. 

If you’ve tried everything and a cesarean birth looks likely you can make that experience as positive as possible.

Here Are Some Tips:

 
  • Ask to wait until you have the first sign of labour – then you know your baby is ready to be born and is less likely to have breathing difficulties.  
  • Plan your cesarean date at 40 weeks or later so your baby gets those extra few days for development and, who knows, your baby might still turn at the last minute especially if this isn’t your first baby.  
  • Read up about seeding your baby’s gut so your baby is exposed to similar ‘friendly’ bacteria he would have been colonized with if he had been born vaginally.  
  • Write birth preferences that include immediate skin to skin in theatre and recovery room and delayed cord clamping so your baby’s birth can be as gentle and positive as possible.

READ NEXT: Is There Such Thing As A Gentle Or Natural Caesarean?

Do you have an experience to share? Let us know in the comments below. 

About the Author

I’m Tracy Donegan, registered midwife and mum to 2 gorgeous boys. I’ve been working in Irish maternity services since 2005 and really enjoy helping Irish families have the best experiences possible. You may be familiar with my books – The Irish Better Birth Book and The Irish Caesarean and VBAC Guide, as well as the very popular GentleBirth Positive Birth app.

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