For expectant parents wondering what to do about a breech position of their baby, there are several options for turning a breech baby near the due date. During the last several weeks of pregnancy, most newborns are “vertex” presented, with their heads near the cervix. In contrast, 4% of infants assume a breech position, in which their bottom or feet are close to the cervix.
Breech position complicates labor and delivery because the umbilical cord might become entangled with the baby’s feet. The baby’s arms, body, or legs may slide out of the cervix before it is completely dilated, but the head may become lodged in the birth canal. This could result in damage or even death for the infant.
The breech position can be confirmed by tactile touch and ultrasonography. Typically, the diagnosis is made during the 36th week of pregnancy, when the baby assumes its ultimate birthing position (babies tend to move around in the womb before this time). If you’ve had twins before, have excessive or insufficient amniotic fluid, many fibroids in your uterus, have had early deliveries in the past, or have placenta previa, your baby is more likely to be born breech (placenta covering the cervix).
So, how do doctors deal with breech-presenting infants? As it turns out, there are several things you can do to get your baby into the correct position or to adapt if they refuse to turn.
How to Correct Breech Posture
You can take many well-established techniques to encourage your baby into a more favorable position for delivery. In this vertex or anterior presentation, your baby faces your back, and their head is close to the birth canal.
Organize a “version.”
If your baby is breech at 37 weeks, your doctor should recommend an external cephalic version (a “version”), in which they apply pressure to your abdomen with their hands to turn the baby. “Sometimes, we use medication to relax the uterus. Then we encourage a somersault by lifting the baby’s torso with one hand, placing the other hand on the baby’s head, and lifting the baby’s head with the other hand, “Heather Weldon, M.D., an OB-GYN in Salinas, California, explains.
Andrew S. Gardner, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Langone Medical Center, adds, “Virtually every patient with a breech baby should be offered this delivery method unless there are other contraindications to vaginal delivery.”
A typical version has a success rate of greater than 50%. A low risk of major complications, such as premature membrane rupture, necessitates delivery in an acute-care center in case a cesarean section is required.
It is not suggested for those with any of the following conditions:
- Vaginal bleeding.
- A placenta that covers the uterine entrance.
- Tiny infant.
- Insufficient amniotic fluid.
- Abnormal fetal cardiac rhythm.
- Membrane rupture before its time.
- Pregnancy with multiple children.
Note that a version should not be administered prior to 37 weeks, as it may induce delivery.
The ligaments and connective tissue that support the uterus and pelvis can be loosened with walking and calf stretching. This can allow more space for a posterior baby to rotate their body and tuck their chin to facilitate birth, according to Gail Tully, a midwife in Minneapolis and creator of Spinning Babies, an organization that assists pregnant mothers in moving their babies into healthier birth positions.
As long as your physician approves, squats may aid with the proper descent of the baby. With your back straight, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your heels on the ground, bend your knees until they are in line with your toes. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then stand up carefully. Start with five repetitions and work your way up to more.
You could also alter your lounging style. Instead of leaning back in a large, comfortable seat, consider leaning forward while maintaining a straight back; this can assist your baby flip.
Use cushions on the floor or an ironing board propped against your couch seat to construct a plank with one end on the floor and the other end elevated so that your hips are approximately 1.5 feet above your head.
Tend to this position for 10 to 15 minutes three times daily, ideally when your infant is active. According to Spinning Babies, the procedure helps your baby move into the right birthing position by utilizing balance and gravity. There are no solid statistics to support this claim.
The Webster Technique
Heather Yost, D.C., a chiropractor at Yost Family Chiropractic in Urbandale, Iowa, explains, “This is a mild chiropractic adjustment to the pelvis and sacral that decreases uterine torsion [twisting] and balances the pelvic muscles so that the baby can move into an ideal position for birth.” Generally, four to ten adjustments are required to turn a baby. However, some do so after only one effort. According to the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, this approach has an 82% success rate.
What If My Baby Remains Breech Position?
Do you still have a breech baby after attempting these methods? Many hospitals require cesarean sections for breech deliveries because of the potential for problems. Consult your provider for additional information.
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