It’s pretty common for people to worry about their baby being breech, but the great news is that only 3-4% of babies are breech at term. That’s a reassuring number, but, of course, we do run into this situation every now and then. Here are a few answers to common questions we hear in our office about breech babies:
How Can you Tell if my baby is breech?
Midwives have great palpating skills, which means that we can pretty reliably assess your baby’s position with our hands. We check the position at every prenatal visit past about 28 weeks.
What if we suspect a breech baby?
If you are prior to 35 or 36 weeks, we will make suggestions for natural ways to help baby to turn, starting with chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture. We’ll also recommend visiting the Spinning Babies website for information on exercises that you can do to help baby get into a better position. If we still suspect a breech by 35 or 36 weeks, we will refer you for an ultrasound to verify.
What if the ultrasound confirms that my baby is breech?
This is when we will want to get a friendly physician involved to talk about the options. For most people, it is reasonable to consider an external cephalic version. If this is a good option for you, a physician will schedule this for you in a hospital setting, and will attempt to turn your baby while monitoring baby’s heartbeat to make sure they are tolerating the change in position. If this is successful, you will most likely be released back into our care for a home birth.
What if the external cephalic version doesn’t work?
Sometimes, a baby just doesn’t want to turn. This could be because there is a short cord that is impeding the position change, or that they are simply “stuck” in their position for whatever reason. If this is the case, the next step is to consider whether you are a good candidate for attempting a vaginal breech birth in a hospital setting. (In Colorado, midwives are not able to attend breech births at home under our license). You may have this conversation with the same doctor who attempted the version, or we may refer you to a doctor who we feel will be a better fit for your birth. There is a lot that goes into this decision, and we and your doctor will help you weigh pros and cons of attempting a vaginal birth.
what if a vaginal breech birth isn’t a good option for me?
If the outcome of these conversations is that, in the end, a vaginal birth isn’t a good or available option for you, the next step is to plan a caesarean section. Since you were planning a home birth earlier in your pregnancy, it is likely to be pretty disappointing to be looking at a c-section, and we will help connect you with resources. The great thing about a planned c-section is that you have some time to consider what you would like your caesarean birth to look like. The growing trend is to make surgical birth as mother and baby friendly as possible, and could include things like clear drapes so that you can see the birth, immediate skin to skin, and delayed cord clamping. Depending on the current rules of your facility, you may be able to have an additional support person in the operating room with you, in which case one of us or your doula could accompany you and your partner for extra birth support.
Birth, as with all parts of life, can have a few twists and turns that take us in directions we weren’t expecting. We are here to help you navigate the unexpected parts of your pregnancy and birth journey. For more information, we invite you to listen to our podcast episode on breech babies: Mod Midwives: Breech Babies