At some point during pregnancy, many babies are found to be breech, meaning bottom down instead of head down. Breech vaginal birth may be associated with some slightly higher rates of negative outcome for babies, and so many practitioners in the U.S. consider breech presentation at or beyond term (usually 38 or 39 weeks) a reason to schedule a cesarean. As a birth doula, when a woman is told that her baby is breech at an appointment, I often get worried calls or texts, asking for all. the. things to get the baby to turn.
One thing that is important to know is that only 3-4% of babies are going to stay breech at term. That means that if you are 28 weeks pregnant and just found out your baby is breech: DO NOT PANIC. It is very likely that your baby will turn well before delivery, and you will be able to give birth the way you want to! After 32 weeks gestation, the percentage of babies who are breech tends to decrease, and by around 36 weeks, most babies have flipped to a vertex (head down) position.
So, what happens if you hit 34 weeks gestation, and your baby is still (or newly) breech? Here are a few proven ways to help coax your baby into a head down position:
- Chiropractic: Studies have been done on the Webster Technique, a specific technique of chiropractic care that includes gently massaging and releasing the ligaments on the front of the uterus and pelvis. The relaxation of tension in these ligaments and the restoration of balance in the pelvis can help give the baby enough room to encourage him or her to move head down. In the Mason (north of Cincinnati and south of Dayton), Revelation Chiropractic has two chiropractors trained in this method. In Cincinnati, Bright Futures Family Chiropractic is another wonderful option.
- Acupuncture & Moxibustion: Acupuncture and moxibustion under the care of a qualified practitioner of Chinese medicine, preferably someone with experience and knowledge about pregnancy and birth related acupuncture, may help your baby to turn. A few studies have shown a combination of these two methods in the final month of pregnancy to be effective in turning breech babies, as well as simply using acupuncture alone. In Cincinnati, Bliss Chiropractic and Acupuncture offers both, as does Thrive Chiropractic.
- Hypnosis: Some studies have suggested that using hypnotheraphy in combination with an external cephalic version may help your uterus to relax, and give your baby plenty of room to turn head down. For a DIY approach, Hypnobabies sells a track called "Turn Baby Turn" that you can purchase to listen to, and at the very least, find some peace, relaxation, and greater bonding with your baby.
- External cephalic version: If the more natural methods do not work for you, you can consider asking your doctor whether or not you are a candidate for an external cephalic version. This is a procedure that is done with monitoring in the hospital, and involves the practitioner using his or her hands on the woman's abdomen to manually try to rotate the baby. Often times women are offered muscle relaxing drugs (tocolytics) or an epidural to help relax the uterus and improve the effectiveness of this technique.
You may notice that for many of these, the name of the game is getting your muscles and ligaments in the pelvis to relax. I think it may be worthwhile for any woman with a breech baby during pregnancy to think about and practice different ways of relaxing and stretching the pelvic and uterine muscles. Use it as an excuse to get a prenatal massage, go to a prenatal yoga class, or simply take a long, warm, bath by candlelight. Things that will help you to deeply relax, and while you are at it, connect and bond with your unborn baby!
Finally, here are some techniques or ideas you might come across if you do a Google search, but that don't necessarily prove to be effective at turning a breech baby. They may not necessarily hurt, though, either.
- Getting in a knee-chest or inversion position, or similar techniques that put a woman in various positions and postures to encourage a baby to turn. This may come as a shock, but to date, studies have not shown a benefit to using postural techniques to turn a breech baby. So put that ironing board back in the closet!
- Putting a bag of frozen peas (or something similar) on the top of the belly, and a heating pad down low.
- Shinning a flashlight at the bottom of the belly.
- Playing music through headphones at the bottom of the belly.
At Southwest Ohio Family Doulas we excel at companioning with women through their pregnancy and birth. If you live in the Cincinnati or Dayton region, and you find yourself with a breech baby during pregnancy, our doulas can not only give you tips and suggestions to help turn the baby, but will also walk alongside you as you process your emotions and make decisions regarding the delivery of your baby. We can help you feel satisfied and involved in your birth, whether your baby turns and you have a vaginal birth, you have a planned cesarean, or even go for a vaginal breech birth!
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, and you live in Southwest Ohio, the Cincinnati Area Doula Society hosted a screening of the documentary Heads Up: The Disappearing Art of Vaginal Breech Delivery, followed by a panel discussion with several local experts, which you can view on Facebook.