Right around your due date, most babies are positioned head-first in your uterus. This allows the baby’s head to be the first thing out during delivery. Sometimes, however, the baby is positioned bottom-first or feet-first. This is called a breech birth or a breech baby. Babies can breech early on in pregnancy, and most of them turn head-first on their own by the time of delivery. Babies are more likely to be breech if they are premature, part of a multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc.), in the presence of an abnormal level of amniotic fluid or if your uterus is abnormally shaped. As you approach your due date, your doctor will be able to tell you if your baby is breech or not through a physical exam, ultrasound or both. If your baby is breech, here’s what to expect.
You should be seeing your doctor regularly throughout your pregnancy. If your baby is breech, they can tell you early on, monitor the situation and help you plan what to do. There are several ways to turn your baby to the ideal head-first position, and your doctor may suggest some natural methods to try. These will likely be the first attempts if it’s still early on in your pregnancy, at a time when there aren’t any immediate health concerns for you or the baby. Another option is to do a procedure called external cephalic version. If your pregnancy is further along, your doctor may go ahead and schedule a c-section.
External Cephalic Version
External Cephalic Version, or ECV, is one way to turn your baby around while it’s still in your uterus. It involves your doctor applying pressure to your stomach to turn the baby from the outside with the help of ultrasound. Many women who have totally normal pregnancies can have EVC, but you shouldn’t have ECV if you have:
- Vaginal bleeding
- A placenta that is near the opening of your uterus
- A low level of fluid in the sac surrounding your baby
- An abnormal fetal heart
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Twins or other multiple pregnancy
ECV is usually done in a hospital toward the end of pregnancy, around 37 weeks. Before the procedure, the doctor will do an ultrasound to confirm that your baby is, in fact, breech. They’ll monitor your baby’s heart rate to make sure it’s normal. You may be given medicine to relax the muscles in your uterus, either by injection or through an IV. It’s completely safe and won’t hurt your baby at all.
You’ll lie down, and your doctor will place their hands on your stomach. After locating the baby’s head, they’ll gently try to turn the baby to the head-first position using gentle pressure. After this, your baby’s heart rate will be monitored again to make sure everything’s still normal. If the ECV is successful, you shouldn’t have to stay at the hospital, and the likelihood of having a normal vaginal delivery is very high.
There is a chance, thought, that your baby could turn back around. The success rate of ECV depends on a few different things:
- How close you are to your due date
- How much fluid is surrounding your baby
- How many times you’ve been pregnant
- How much your baby weighs
- How the placenta is positioned
- How your baby is positioned specifically
If the ECV is not successful, you still have options. Your doctor will discuss delivery with you, the pros and cons of having a vaginal or c-section birth and repeating the ECV closer to your due date. Though the risks of ECV are small and rare, they include:
- Early onset labor
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Minor blood loss for either you or the baby
- Fetal distress leading to an emergency c-section
Although not backed up by much scientific evidence, there are natural methods that have been know to help encourage your baby to turn on its own. These methods include different exercise positions, certain stimulants and alternative medicine. Here are a few you could try at home.
Breech or pelvic tilt—lie on the floor with your legs bent and your feet flat on the ground. Raise your pelvis into a bridge position, and hold the position for 10 to 20 minutes. You can try this three times a day, and it may help to try it when your baby is especially active and moving around.
Inversion—you can use gravity to help turn your baby by resting in the child’s pose for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also rock back and forth on your hands and knees, making circles with your pelvis to promote activity.
Music—certain sounds may appeal to and excite your baby! Place headphones or a speaker at the bottom of your stomach to try to encourage them to turn on their own.
Temperature—much like music, your baby may have a preference for different temperatures. Try placing something cold at the top of your stomach where the baby’s head is. Then place something warm—not hot—near the bottom of your uterus.
Webster technique—this is the chiropractic approach, meant to align your pelvis and hips as well as relax the uterus. The goal is to physically encourage your baby to turn on its own.
Acupuncture—this is an ancient form of Chinese medicine that involves placing very fine needles at certain pressure points to balance your body’s energy. It can help relax your uterus and stimulate your baby’s movement.
Important Things to Consider
It’s not always possible to turn your baby to the right position, but that’s not necessarily bad. Some breech babies can still be safely delivered vaginally, although most doctors deliver them by c-section. Some risks associated with delivering your breech baby vaginally include:
- An injury during or after delivery
- An injury where the baby’s hip socket and thigh bone become separated
- Problems with the umbilical cord—it can be flattened during delivery, which can cause brain and nerve damage due to a lack of oxygen from the umbilical cord
Remember that breech babies are common and don’t necessarily indicate any serious problems. Consult your doctor and figure out what will work best for you and your baby.
For more questions and information, contact Regional Medical Center today.