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BIRTHING: Flipping a breech baby

by Kerryn on October 21st, 2010

I was really hoping to have a natural birth at home. I decided to use professional midwives instead of going the “usual” gynae route.  I found two wonderful midwives, Ciska and Susan, to guide me through my pregnancy. My husband, Scott and I also attended a great natural birthing course, Mama Bamba, run by Robyn Sheldon.

However pregnancy, like life, doesn’t always go according to plan. From our 22 week scan onwards Georgie was in a breech position with her head up and bottom down. Initially it wasn’t even a concern as there was plenty of time for her to turn. I did inversions at yoga and concentrated on Optimal Fetal Positioning, which largely involved keeping my pelvis tipped forward instead of backward. This has really made me think about how I sit, drive etc. At 31 weeks when she was still in a breech position I really started making a serious effort to get her to flip.

Here is a list of the things that I tried:

  • I did the cat / dog yoga poses for 5 minutes every evening.
  • I propped the ironing board up against the bed and lay on it with my feet at the top and head at the bottom for about 20 minutes at a time. I would either do visualisations of her turning, guided relaxations or would put my ipod earphones down low on my belly. This is a surprisingly comfortable way to lie. It is just tricky to get on and off the ironing board.
  • I wore a bell on a long string around my neck, to encourage her to move toward the sound.
  • I went to yoga twice a week and would do headstands and shoulder stands to give Georgie more room to turn around.
  • I did this weird inversion off the couch every day, which is helluva tiring in your 3rd trimester in summer.
  • Scott would also talk to Georgie in an authoritative voice down low on my belly and ask her to turn.
  • I massaged my belly in the direction that we wanted her to turn in.
  • My midwife prescribed a homeopathic treatment called pulsitilla (also known as pulsatilla).
  • I went for a few acupuncture sessions.  Georgie moved around A LOT during these sessions, but didn’t flip.
  • I put frozen peas where Georgie’s head was and a warm rice pack at her feet to encourage her to turn. I only did this once as it seemed quite mean to me to freeze her head.
  • In the last week I swam and then did handstands at the pool in the gym (that really got people staring!).

Then finally after no luck with the other methods I booked an ECV (external cephalic version) at 37.5 weeks. This is a medical procedure where your doctor will manually try to turn your baby into a head down position. There are some risks involved, like premature labour or your baby going into distress and needing to be delivered immediately. After speaking to my gynae I was comfortable that the risks were low enough for us to give it a try. We went to the maternity ward at Vincent Pallotti and they monitored Georgie’s heartbeat for 30 minutes before and after the procedure to make sure that she wasn’t in any distress. I was injected with a muscle relaxant to help stop my uterus from contracting when my doctor started pressing on it. Then my doctor placed one hand on Georgie’s bottom and the other up near her head (on my belly) and pushed to try and get her to turn. She tried this 3 times without any major response from Georgie. After that she and I both weren’t comfortable with doing it again. It is a painful procedure and it seemed clear that Georgie wasn’t going to turn.

Here is a video of an ECV for those of you that want to see how it’s done. I always thought that the women in the video looks rather waxy and uninvolved, but I think in retrospect that I looked quite a lot like that! It is a really intense feeling and you are very focussed on your baby and not really on anyone else in the room (still quite funny to watch though).

So after all that I was scheduled a ceasar for 39.5 weeks. My gynae wasn’t prepared to do a natural breech delivery and frankly I didn’t want to risk it. I felt that I did all that I could in getting her to turn and that she just had other ideas about how she was planning on arriving. Our little monkey surprised us by choosing her own birthday when my waters broke at 38 weeks. So in the end I had her by emergency cesarean. While it wasn’t the natural home birth experience that I had been hoping for we have been blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby girl and you can’t really ask for anything more than that.

For any of you that are pregnant and your baby is breech please don’t lose hope. Only a very small number of babies (3-4%) remain breech at full term. So try some of the techniques and ask your baby nicely to flip!  This site has a pretty comprehensive list for flipping a breech baby:

From → Birthing, Pregnancy

  • Gauri Ma

    Hi Kerryin,

    Crazy. I have read a few of your entries and am stunned by how similar our stories are. Anya was breech. We had engaged a homebirth midwife, had the kit, the tub and all… and then she was up-side-down. I tried all of the above plus chiropractic treatment and moxa (which you probably did too). Plus I had not one but two versions – first without anasthetic, second with. the only bit different is that I refused to be ‘scheduled’ for the cesarean so we held hope of a breech delivery (or that she would turn) right to the end. I did go to cesarean in the end – long story involving the fact that she was born on New Year’s eve – but I did go into labour naturally first, which I think then really helped with breastfeeding.

    Then again my best friend just had a planned cesarean (because of high blood pressure) and her breastfeeding has been going really well. So you never can tell.

    Thanks for sharing and offering me this extra chance for reflection on my own story. Thanks to you both, Kerryn and Sarah

    (just catching up on all my blog reading now, as you can probably tell).

    Gauri – you biggest fan (cyber stalker?!)

  • Kerryn

    Hi Gauri, I’m sorry that I’m only replying to your comment now! I didn’t have access back when you sent it and then it slipped my mind. I keep thinking that perhaps Georgie had a reason for choosing to stay breech. Perhaps it was to teach me that parenting certainly won’t always be going according to plan, something that I struggle with. I think G and I have finally settled into a great breastfeeding partnership. It certainly was challenging, but I’m so glad that I stuck it out. Also so thrilled that you’re enjoying our posts. Cheers, Kerryn