What do you do when your baby stubbornly refuses to move into a birth position? These three tricks could help. By Catherine McCormack
By the time most babies approach full-term, their heads will be facing down towards the mom’s spine, ready for a natural birth. But an estimated 3% of full-term babies remain upright in a breech position.
“Most babies turn by 38 weeks,” says Sister Ingram from Johannesburg’s Genesis Birth Clinic, “so I always advise moms intent on a natural birth to wait as long as possible – at least into week 39 before deciding on a C-Section. However, it’s important to be especially vigilant for signs of labour if this is the case.
Can I have a natural breech birth?
Risking labour with a breech baby is not something many moms or their caregivers would welcome. Dr Taheera Hassim of the University of the Witwatersrand and in private practice at both Linksfield Clinic and Sunninghill Hospital, explains: “A breech delivery carries significantly higher risks than an ordinary vaginal birth and most doctors would recommend an elective C-Section.
“Among the risks are the baby’s head getting stuck and prolapse, where the umbilical cord becomes compressed during delivery and restricts the baby’s supply of oxygen. Because there is no evidence to suggest that a baby born in breech will not suffer long-term negative consequences, it is difficult to justify the additional risk posed by a natural birth.”
But a natural breech birth is seldom attempted unless it meets the very narrowly defined criteria of ‘easy breech’ – and then, only in certain facilities.
“We’ll only consider natural birth for a breech baby if the pregnancy is uncomplicated, full term, and it’s a second-time mom,” says Ingram. “She will also have to birth with an experienced caregiver and be aware of the risks involved.
Correcting a breech
Successfully turning a breech baby will depend largely on why it failed to turn in the first place. “If the breech is caused by a uterine abnormality or too little amniotic fluid, then your chances of turning the baby are slim,” says Hassim. “And even in ‘easy breeches’, attempting an external cephalic version (ECV), or manual manipulation of the foetus, is not without risk. It is, however, the only scientifically proven method for correcting a breech.”
“A host of alternative treatments and practices do exist with varying degrees of success and one, or a combination of them, can be tried before attempting an ECV,” suggests Ingram.
Three ways to help your breech baby turn
Always consult your caregiver before attempting anything that might affect your pregnancy and start by using the simple force of gravity to help your baby turn.
- Lie on your back and elevate your hips above your shoulders. Use a couple of pillows or the wall for support. Alternatively, get on your hands and knees and lower your forearms to the ground so that your hips are high and your shoulders low. Maintain these positions for at least 15 minutes, three times a day.
- You may also want to try the Chinese method of moxibustion, the burning of moxa sticks containing tightly rolled and dried mugwort leaves. You can buy them from herbalists, some acupuncturists and traditional Chinese healers, who will demonstrate how to use them.
- Another method some moms have found useful is to encourage your baby to move away from cold by placing a bag of frozen peas on the top of your bump – or towards music by placing headphones on your bump.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.