Breech Births

Breech Births
Near the end of your pregnancy, your baby gets ready for delivery by flipping itself into a head down position.  If this doesn't happen, and your baby remains head upwards, this is known as the breech position. 

If your medical team has discovered that your baby is breech before you have reached full term then don't worry, plenty of babies turn themselves around before the end of the pregnancy or even during labour.  Before 28 weeks, around 20% of babies are breech; at 32 weeks about 15% are in that position, and by the time you are due, only about 3-4% of babies remain breech.  Some may still turn naturally at the end of your term, but there's often not enough room to do so, and most remain in the breech position. 

If you have been told you have a breech baby and it hasn't turned by 36 weeks, your midwife or Doctor may try turning your baby manually.  This is called an External Cephalic Version (ECV) and involves physically manoeuvring your bump to make the baby flip over.  You may be given womb relaxants at this point, and your baby's heartbeat will be monitored.  ECV can be uncomfortable, but if the heartbeat monitor shows your baby is in distress, which is very rare, an emergency caesarean section may be given.  Baby at this point is at full term so this will not harm it or you.
There is a lot of anecdotal advice about things you can do to encourage your breech baby to flip over, such as putting frozen peas near the top of your bump to encourage the baby to move away from the cold, or doing exercises known as the breech tilt.  The easiest way to do this is to lie in bed with a pile of pillows under your buttocks to raise your hips up, or to kneel on your hands and knees for ten minutes every day.  Lunging forward whilst on your hands and knees is also said to be helpful.  Acupuncture is said to help some women, but make sure you find an accredited practitioner.  Your acupuncturist may also try moxibustion, a traditional Chinese method of turning breech babies, where mugwort sticks are burned near your little toes!  Many women have found a chiropractor to be helpful but again: make sure they are registered and accredited. 
Despite the best efforts of midwives, doctors and mother however, some babies just won't budge and in these instances baby will need to be delivered breech.  There are some schools of thought that say all breech babies should be delivered by caesarean section, but some people believe that a natural birth is just as safe if the practitioner has the right skills.  Talk to your midwife and/or consultant; do lots of reading, and decide what feels right for you and your baby.

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