12 potential ways to turn a breech baby
Having an ultrasound that reveals your baby is breech can be devastating, especially if you’ve been mentally preparing yourself for a vaginal birth. I was so disappointed to learn my baby was breech at 33 weeks gestation. I tried not to panic. After all, the technician said many babies flip beyond 33 weeks. Apparently, about 10% of babies are breech at 34 weeks, and only 3-4% are breech at full term (37+ weeks). That meant my baby had at least a 50% chance of turning head down by the time she was full term. Surely, I thought, she would flip in the next few weeks.
Still, I wasn’t about to lay around and wait for it to happen. I did some serious digging to identify all the possible ways to flip a breech baby. Here is a list of every technique I came across. Some of them have evidence to back them up, while others have little to no support in the literature. To me, most of the unsupported techniques seemed pretty harmless. If your baby is butt-down, hopefully you will find this list helpful! (read below for my experience)
Note: These techniques are not appropriate for everyone. Each pregnancy and body is different. Some exercises and procedures can give rise to complications. Always consult your medical care provider before attempting something new. Your doctor will be able to guide you in determining what activities/techniques/procedures are safe for you, specifically.
1. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is good for many reasons, including helping your breech baby turn! Drinking adequate amounts of water helps keep your amniotic fluid levels up. When the amniotic fluid levels drop, there is less room for your baby to move around.
I found it easier to stay hydrated when I added flavor to my water – a squirt of lemon/lime, a drink mix, or a fruit infusion. I also tended to drink more water if I had a straw, and I grew very attached to my 40 oz Hydro Flask with a straw lid (best Christmas gift from my hubs!)
Moxibustion is an acupuncture technique that involves holding a burning moxa stick close to specific areas of your skin (close enough to feel the warmth, but not so close it burns you). The moxa stick visually resembles a cigar and is made up of dried mugwort. The intention of moxibustion is to stimulate the flow of Qi. Moxibustion can be used for a variety of conditions. When used for a breech baby, the moxa stick is placed over a point known as Bladder 67 (on the outside of your little toe). Talk to your acupuncturist for specific instructions and parameters. Many mothers report increased fetal movement during moxibustion treatment. Just to warn you, the burning of a moxa stick smells a lot like marijuana.
Pregnancy hormones cause increased joint laxity, which can cause the pelvic bones to shift. Besides causing pain, this pelvic malalignment can also create tension on the uterus (due to ligamentous connections between the uterus and the pelvis). Some believe that this tension on the uterus can be enough to prevent a baby from assuming the head-down position.
The Webster Technique is commonly used by chiropractors to improve pelvic alignment in pregnant women, thereby reducing constraint in the uterus. Many chiropractors claim that this gentle technique is best used throughout pregnancy, rather than right at the end in an “oh no my baby is breech” panic. However, many mothers have reported success with turning their breech baby when seeing a chiropractor in the third trimester.
4. Spinning Babies:
Spinning Babies®, created by midwife Gail Tully, is full of ideas on how to optimize a mother’s anatomical space and help a baby obtain the best position for birth. Their goal is to create an easier childbirth experience. The following are 4 of the exercises they suggest for women with a breech baby. Please visit the links for pictures, step-by-step instructions, parameters, as well as contraindications. Click through their website for a wealth of helpful information.
- Forward-leaning inversion
- Breech Tilt
- Open knee-chest position
- Sidelying release (requires a partner)
Yoga helps stretch structures in your pelvis and hips, which may create a little more wiggle room for your baby. Some hypothesize that certain poses may help encourage a baby to flip. There is also such a thing as prenatal yoga, which is designed to be safe for mom and baby. Check with your local yoga studio to see if they offer these courses. Or, if you’re on a budget, turn to You-Tube. Get clearance from your doctor before participating in yoga or attempting a new pose.
I had a few friends suggest swimming while I was struggling to turn my breech baby. Their thought was that the water would unweight my uterus, and, in theory, give my baby more room to turn. Even though it didn’t work for me, I found the water very relaxing!
7. Hypnosis, guided relaxation, and visualization
Using any combination of these things can help you ease tension, both mentally and physically. A physical relaxation of your core may provide some extra wiggle room for your little peanut.
Some mothers use hypnotherapy to create a more comfortable pregnancy and birthing experience. Hypnobabies® has an MP3 designed specifically for helping turn a breech baby. Mothers have reported this MP3 as helpful for flipping baby head-down and/or for strengthening their bond with their baby.
8. Talk to your baby.
Take a moment to talk to your baby! Tell your baby what you’d like them to do. Be encouraging. Talk from your heart. It certainly won’t do any harm.
Play music or have your partner sing/talk to your baby at the base of your pelvis. Some suggest that this will coax your baby to move head down.
You could try placing a cold pack at the top of your belly and/or a warm pack at the bottom. This is based off a theory that babies like warmth. The hope is that your baby will work himself away from the cold and toward the heat. Of course, use reasonable temperatures and be careful not to burn yourself or cause frostbite!
Babies respond to light. You may have tried shining a light on your belly and watching your tummy dance as your little one reacts to the sudden brightness. Some say that shining a light at the base of your bump, or drawing a circle on your belly with a light, can encourage your baby to turn head down.
12. External Cephalic Version.
An External Cephalic Version (ECV) is probably the most invasive procedure on this list. For many moms, it is used as a last resort. The success rate for an ECV is typically reported as 50-60%.
This technique is performed by a trained medical professional, usually a doctor. The procedure involves the doctor placing his/her hands on your abdomen and manually trying to rotate your baby. The doctor has to use a great deal of pressure in order to physically manipulate your baby’s position.
Although rare, complications have been recorded. For this reason, an ECV is typically done in a hospital setting. This allows for your baby to be monitored closely. It also allows for quick access to a surgical room should the need for an emergent C-section arise.
See my post on External Cephalic Versions for more information.
Many of the above techniques are based on “balancing” your pelvis and uterus. Outside of these techniques, you can make an effort to maintain a balanced pelvis by using good body mechanics and maintaining symmetry whenever possible (for example, don’t sit with your legs crossed, try to avoid propping your toddler up on the same hip for long periods, lift/carry objects directly in front of you and close to your body rather than off to the side).
What if nothing is working?
Sometimes, there are things outside of our control that prevent a baby from moving head down (a woman’s uterus shape, pelvic anatomy, a short umbilical cord, a cord wrapped around the baby, a low-lying placenta, etc). Your baby may need to be breech in order to stay safe. So, when you are frustrated that your baby isn’t turning, just remember that your baby may be playing it smart. Do not blame yourself! If you’ve exhausted your options and your baby is still breech, try to stay positive. People have healthy babies by C-section every day. Healthy baby and mama are top priority! As for breech vaginal deliveries, you’d have to consult your doctor. Most healthcare providers won’t perform these deliveries due to the risks involved.
I tried most of the conservative techniques on this list without success. In fact, there is a picture of me lying upside down on an ironing board with a package of frozen peas strapped to the top of my bump, a small speaker playing lullabies at the base of my bump, and my husband holding a moxa stick near my little toe. In addition, I did yoga every morning, performed countless inversions, talked to my baby regularly, and probably confused the heck out of her with the darn flashlight.
Weeks went by, and she remained breech. The dreaded c-section was becoming a real possibility, and my goal of a natural birth was growing more unobtainable every day. I was initially against an ECV, because it sounded too forceful and invasive for my baby. As time went by, however, I started to entertain the idea.
I did a lot more research on the topic, and I talked to multiple doctors, midwives, and L&D RNs. I decided to try it. Fortunately, I found a trusted and experienced OB doctor to perform the procedure. He promised a conservative approach and agreed not push it if he felt any resistance in the rotation of my baby.
I was so nervous walking into the hospital for my appointment, but I’m so happy I went through with it – the ECV was a SUCCESS! I was so ecstatic I could have kissed the doctor! If you have any specific questions about my ECV experience, please message me. I’d be happy to share more.
After the procedure, which was performed at 37.5 weeks, I was careful about my positioning in order to help her stay in an optimal position. I kept a balanced posture and used good body mechanics throughout the rest of my pregnancy. My beautiful baby girl was born 10 days past her due date by vaginal birth.