The most optimal position for a baby to be in to deliver vaginally is left occiput anterior (LOA). This means the baby’s backside is facing toward the front left side of the mother’s body with his or her bottom in the top of the uterus. Around 3 to 4 percent of expecting moms end their pregnancies with a breech baby, according to Science and Sensibility. That being said, babies can move and shift position right up until the end of pregnancy, so a baby that isn’t in LOA at 30 or even 36 weeks isn’t concerning. There is time. There are risks that apply to breech births and because of that, many interventions are often tried first. After all, a breech birth is generally more difficult for the mother, too.
To better understand the birthing process with a breech baby, you must understand how the mother’s body works to accommodate the baby passing through, and also the types of breech presentation. There are three types:
- Frank breech
- Footling breech
- Complete breech
Table of Contents
1. Spinning Babies
Before you let a doctor convince you that you’re doomed to have a cesarean section, check out Spinning Babies. This lifesaver resource provides statistics to assure you that you aren’t the only one and video tutorials on things like belly mapping and pelvic exercises. What’s belly mapping, you might ask? Belly mapping is both educational and beautiful. The pseudo-art practice allows Moms and Dads to pinpoint the exact position of their little one by feeling for specific parts through Mom’s belly and painting on the coordinating images. If Mom and Dad aren’t artists by nature, they can hire an artist to do it for them. Many doulas also offer this service. Regardless, belly mapping techniques—sans paint—can be used to assess baby’s position and give the parents-be-to a little reassurance that not everything is out of their control.
While there aren’t any exercises that specifically target mispositioned babies in order to turn them, there are plenty of exercises that encourage babies to get into the optimal position for labor on their own. Pelvic tilts, the use of a balancing ball, sitting upright, and pelvic rocks are all great choices.
2. Chiropractic Care
If you haven’t been seeking chiropractic care your entire pregnancy already, a breech baby is a perfect reason to start. For reference, many women seek this kind of care throughout their pregnancies to make sure they are well aligned for birth and to help the baby get into a good position, too. Many chiropractors offer great deals to mothers who seek their services while pregnant, such as free adjustments for the baby until he or she is six months old.
If you do seek the help of a chiropractor, make sure the one you choose is Webster certified. This means they know how to safely work on the body of a pregnant woman. Adjusting and realigning the spine allows the entire body to communicate more effectively. Roughly 82 percent of women pregnant with breech babies have been shown to respond to Webster chiropractic methods to turn their babies, per 100% Chiropractic.
When a baby is in the breech position, it usually means the mother’s pelvis isn’t well aligned. Adjusting Mom allows the baby to shift deeper into the pelvis. Regular care is recommended, so don’t be surprised if the chiropractor suggests you return for an adjustment several times a week, but this is quite often all women need to get their babies to turn. Birth also requires loose ligaments, tendons and muscles, all of which a chiropractor can help with.
Moxibustion — a form of Chinese medicine — involves the burning of herbs near to the fifth toes on each foot. It has been shown to initiate labor by increasing the release of labor-inducing prostaglandins in the feet by way of heat exposure. It is also used to turn breech babies. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports use of moxibustion for babies who were in breech positions during the 33rd week of pregnancy did increase the likelihood of fetal movement that led to their repositioning.
4. External Cephalic Version
External Cephalic Vision, or ECV is a procedure performed by a woman’s midwife or obstetrician who uses fetal heart monitoring, sonography and manual pressure to physically move the baby from the outside. This process can be painful for the mother. It is generally carried out after a woman has reached 36 weeks since it can cause labor to start and there is still a good amount of amniotic fluid to work with. There are other risks involved with ECV, too, such as:
- Twisting of the umbilical cord
- Uterine rupture
- Placental rupture
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Initiation of contractions
This procedure is best reserved as a last resort if other methods have not worked to turn the baby, a breech delivery isn’t possible, and time is running out.
5. The Risks
There are several risks involved with breech births. This is the reason many providers opt out of them altogether. For the most part, doctors and hospital midwives must take into account what their liability insurance policy allows, as well as the likelihood of adverse outcomes and needing to use that insurance policy.
The risks of delivering while a baby is breech remain high, but can be lessened under the care of an experienced physician or midwife. Reuters reports 40 percent of mothers still opted for vaginal births in light of breech presentation in 2007. While some of those women ended up having Cesareans, some of the babies turned and lay down into a more optimal position during labor. The risk of injury and fetal death are both higher for breech deliveries and should not be taken lightly.
It’s hard to say how many cesarean sections are performed that aren’t medically necessary. Breech births may very well be one instance in which they are the most necessary. However, this isn’t due to the dangers that breech births are said to pose, but rather to the very few medical providers who are skilled and experienced with delivering breech babies.
If you’re faced with a potential breech birth, doing all you can now to prepare for it will save you a lot of stress and anxiety down the road. Should the baby turn into a more optimal position, great! If your little one decides to stay head up, don’t immediately assume a vaginal birth is out of the question, but know the risks and stay informed on your options.