How to Turn a Breech Baby
Two weeks before my due date I was visiting my midwife for my weekly check. I was disappointed when she announced- again- “She still hasn’t dropped,” meaning little Violet still was not ready to be born. I was more than ready, and after watching my blood pressure slowly climb the past few weeks, my midwife was ready for this all to come to a close as well.
To help her decide whether to induce labor or not, my
midwife sent me to another room for fetal monitoring. She wanted to check if my
climbing blood pressure was having any harmful effects on the baby.
Incidentally, Violet herself held up the monitoring with a bout of the hiccups. During fetal monitoring, a special device is strapped to a pregnant mother’s abdomen that can pick up on the baby’s heartbeat. (Most women have one on for at least a few minutes when they first arrive at the hospital to deliver.) Another device is held in the mother’s hand with the instructions to click the button whenever she feels baby move. With these two monitors in place, doctors can check that baby’s heart rate is rising when she moves.
When my midwife came in the room to check how everything was going, I asked if the results would be skewed because of Violet’s hiccups. She said I would have to stay longer so they could get an accurate reading, and manually started feeling my stomach to sense how Violet was doing. It was only at this point- I suppose as she felt more prominently the area the hiccups were coming from- that she began to run her hands even more slowly and deliberately, and then announced, surprised, “I think this baby is sitting breech!”
Within minutes an advising doctor was in the room informing my husband and I that they could attempt a version, a maneuver in which they attempt to turn a baby over by pushing on the outside of the mother’s abdomen, and if this didn’t work a c-section would be necessary. He followed this startling news by asking us if we would like to schedule this for the following morning.
In less than two hours we went from a relatively normal, healthy pregnancy to a possible emergency situation.
After talking for just a few minutes, we decided to wait on the version and possible c-section a few days. This would allow us time to inform our families, who live out of state, of what was going on; as well as give us the opportunity to do anything in our power to turn this baby before undergoing the version attempt, which can be extremely painful.
What Does Breech Mean?
For those who haven’t heard, babies are supposed to be born head first. Since this is the largest part of their body, this makes for the easiest birthing process- once a newborn’s head and shoulders are delivered, the rest of their body generally follows pretty quickly.
A breech “presentation” simply means a baby who is not head-down. The baby can be sitting buttocks or feet first. The definition of breech is further divided into categories by which direction, mother’s front or back, the baby is facing.
Very few doctors in the United States will deliver your baby vaginally if it is breech. Most doctors are not being trained in this technique anymore, even though a generation ago, delivering a breech baby vaginally was relatively normal. The vast majority, ninety-five percent, of breech babies delivered vaginally have no complications. If assistance is needed by a medical professional, it usually consists of turning the baby in the birth canal manually or the use of forceps. At times, an episiotomy needs to be made to assist in the baby’s birth.
If you are seeing a typical American OBGYN, you have very little chance of even attempting to deliver a breech baby vaginally. The doctor will insist on delivering the baby via cesarean section.
One possible risk of turning a breech baby is that they may still turn back to being breech again after they have been turned.
10 Ways to Turn a Breech Baby
Most ideas we researched seemed far-fetched, at best, but we tried some of them. When you come to the end of your rope, you’ll try anything, far-fetched or not. For the sake of relevancy, I’ll start with the most reasonable and proven methods, and move to the more obscure and questionable.
Successful Version Attempt
External Cephalic Version
External cephalic version, or version, is the procedure used to turn a breech or side-lying baby to a head-down position before labor starts. When the attempt is successful, a version makes it possible to attempt a vaginal delivery. A version is usually attempted at 36 or 37 weeks. A version should only be attempted in a hospital by a doctor with the help of ultrasound equipment and fetal monitoring. External cephalic version has a success rate of 58% and is quite painful.
The Chiropractic Journal, a publication of the World Chiropractic Alliance, reports, “The Webster Technique, discovered by Dr. Larry Webster, founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), is a specific chiropractic adjustment for pregnant mothers. It is a chiropractic technique designed to relieve the causes of intrauterine constraint.” The Webster Technique has been in practice for over 20 years. The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reported in the July/August 2002 issue that 82% of doctors using the Webster Technique reported success.
This is the method that ended up working for us! The Webster Technique does require multiple attempts over about two weeks. In my case, my daughter turned over after only one visit, one day before my scheduled version attempt. I don’t believe this is common, but we also attribute much of Violet’s turning to prayer, which we and many of our friends and family were fervently doing.
The Breech Tilt
Some women believe that you can lie at an angle, either on a board or ironing board, with your head down and feet up and help the baby to turn over this way. The theory is that this angle helps the baby tuck their head, thus making it easier for them to flip over, like doing a somersault. Supporters recommend doing this fifteen to twenty minutes two to three times a day as early as 32 weeks and until the baby turns head down.
This method can be used alone or in combination with other ideas mentioned here, such as the “breech tilt”. This is simply rubbing both hands wide and flat around the belly in the direction you want the baby to turn. Both hands should stay opposite each other and move circularly, around the baby.
Yoga is an ancient system of breathing practices, physical exercises and postures, and meditation believed to unite the practitioner's body, mind, and spirit. Certain yoga poses are believed to help a breech baby turn head down. These include kneeling on all fours with shoulders against the floor and buttocks up in the air, giving more space to the abdomen and rib cage for baby to move; laying with a pillow under your pelvis to raise your hips higher than your head, as well as a variety of inverse positions.
Yoga Positions for Breech Babies
Believers in the practice of acupuncture think that the insertion of disposable needles, just under the skin, can release or balance energy in the body. If you would like to seek the avenue of acupuncture, you will need to find an experienced, licensed practitioner. Acupuncturists believe that the release of energy can help the baby find a better position by allowing the mother’s body to relax so that baby can position itself properly for birth.
Cold at the Top of the Uterus
It’s possible that placing an ice pack (do not place directly on your skin) or even a frozen bag of peas against the top of your uterus may cause your baby to attempt to turn it’s head away from the cold temperature.
Music at the Pubic Bone
Some believe the playing music (through headphones or a small speaker) near the pubic bone may cause your baby to attempt to turn towards the music. In essence, you’re showing your baby through music which way to move.
Light Near Pubic Bone
On the same note, a bright light can be shown against the skin near the pubic bone. Babies can see light, such as bright sunlight, through their mother’s skin, uterus, and amniotic fluid. It’s possible that they may see a point of bright light as well. Light could either be held in one place near the pubic bone, or moved repeatedly from the top to the bottom of the belly.
This technique, of course, can be used in conjunction with any of the methods above. Some mothers find it helpful to imagine their baby in their womb and picture the baby turning over. This is best done while relaxed and with your eyes closed.
Violet ended up being born without the intervention of
c-section. I credit God answering prayer and the chiropractic Webster’s
technique with our personal success story. My midwife and doctor were amazed at
how quickly she turned to the head down position, even the chiropractor was
Here’s wishing you the best with your own breech baby story!