by Rebecca Overson, LMT, Maternity Massage Specialist & Birth Doula
Breech positioning means that the baby in your pregnant belly is head up instead of head down. Ideally, at the time of birth, a baby should be head down and facing your spine. This is a great little blurb at Birth Without Fear that describes breech positioning. One publication suggests that 20-25% of babies are breech under 28 weeks, 7-16 % are breech at 32 weeks and only 3-4% are breech at term. You can view an illustration of various breech positions here.
Many women believe that a breech baby will result in an automatic c-section delivery and that’s just not true. (See links at end of this article for more information.)
This article is to offer some natural alternatives and methods for turning breech babies.
If you have learned that your baby is breech and you are wondering “Is there anything you can do to help my breech baby turn naturally?” …the answer is YES! Although nobody can guarantee the result (babies do what babies do), there are several gentle alternatives to explore.
1. Webster Technique Chiropractic. The Webster Technique is a specific mode of chiropractic that works directly with the uterine ligaments. There are three pairs of uterine ligaments that act as “tethers” to provide balance and support to the growing uterus. These ligaments attach directly to bones on the inside of the pelvic bowl. One possible reason a baby could be breech (head up instead of head down in utero) is that the pelvis is not aligned, therefore creating more tension on ligaments on one side and a chronically lopsided uterus. Chiropractors who are certified and proficient in the Webster Technique will help to balance the pelvis and the uterine ligaments, thus potentially increasing “room” in the uterus by releasing any unnecessary tension. There are a handful of good chiropractors in Utah who do the Webster Technique and have good success rates helping babies to turn around. Two that we refer to regularly are Shanon Nelson of Legacy Chiropractic & Wellness in Draper, Utah and G. Shaun Reynolds of Family Chiropractic & Wellness, also in Draper. They are both listed on our BirthPages.
2. Acupuncture. Acupuncture done regularly with the focus of turning a breech baby can also be very effective! If you don’t understand it, don’t scoff, just TRY it. It’s cheaper than a c-section and at a very minimum can help you balance the energies of your pregnant body in many ways. Two Acupuncturists that we regularly refer to who are proficient with the needs of pregnant women and turning breech babies with acupuncture are Dean Woolstenhume and Reagan Archibald, both in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are both listed on our BirthPages.
3. External Manual Version. This more invasive approach takes place usually at a hospital, where doctors apply pressure to your belly with their hands while using ultrasound and fetal monitoring, and literally try to turn the baby from the outside. Some women say it is very painful, and there are risks associated with it. But this is another option that is less invasive than a c-section. Talk to your prenatal care provider for more information about this procedure.
4. External Manual Version by a homebirth midwife. I do know some amazingly skilled professional midwives that have gently turned a breech baby in their office. Call us for referrals if you are interested in having a direct-entry midwife attempt to help you. Midwifery is far more ancient of an art than modern obstetrics. Midwives traditionally value tools such as their intuition, keen observation skills, connection with the client and baby, and their HANDS. Of course they do also utilize other types of modern technology to listen to baby’s heart rate and such, but generally speaking, a midwife is another great resource to turn to for help with a breech baby.
5. Massage, Acupressure, and Essential Oils. At Salt Lake Prenatal Massage, working with pregnant physiology is our expertise. We can help release tension in your pelvis, hips, lower back and more which can affect the position of your baby. We can skillfully work acupressure points that can affect the baby’s positioning. We exclusively use doTerra Certified 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils. They have incredible healing properties physically and emotionally. If your baby is breech and you come to our office for a prenatal massage, we can treat you to several natural approaches that promote overall balance physically, mentally, and emotionally.
6. Visualization. Visualization is actually really powerful! I often suggest to clients that they do two things:
1) feel the feelings of relief you will feel when the baby turns. (it’s much more calming to feel relieved when you think about baby turning than fixating on the idea that the baby won’t turn!).
2) Picture that baby head down, facing your tailbone. See the baby doing a gentle nosedive. In your minds eye, watch that little person wiggle gently and find that head-down position and stay in it. Do this often. Relax, and meditate on your baby finding that optimum position for birth. SEE the result you want. SEE the baby being born headfirst.
7. Consider addressing and working through any emotional barriers. Having worked with the body for almost two decades, it is my strong belief that there is a high correlation between emotions and thoughts and what is physically being manifested in the body. When a baby is breech, some women find it useful to consider the possibility that they are holding back in some way, feeling not ready, and so forth. If your baby is breech and you are a survivor of sexual abuse or trauma, I strongly suggest doing some energy work, emotional release work, or something along those lines, to help clear the energy of trauma.
Also consider clearing any resentments or issues with your own mother, or fears about birth, parenting this child, or any other deep-seated issue regarding pregnancy, birth, motherhood, womanhood, and sexuality.
And… if this sounds super weird to you, ignore it.
8. SpinningBabies.com is an EXCELLENT resource for turning breech babies and exploring the awesome world of “optimum fetal positioning”. The woman who runs the site offers many articles and videos and how-to’s regarding inversions and various positions you can do yourself that help relax uterine ligaments and work with the assistance of gravity to turn a breech baby. Check it out, and try what she suggests.
For example, one midwifery textbook suggests elevating your hips 18 inches while lying on your back, for 20 minutes at a time, three times a day. The idea here is to work with gravity to encourage turning.
9. Consider all your options! Breech does not always equal c-section. If you are SUPER COMMITTED to delivering vaginally and your baby is breech, it’s totally possible! However, most doctors are not trained in vaginal deliveries of breech babies anymore. It’s way easier for them to perform major abdominal surgery than deal with the possible complications and elevated risks of a vaginal delivery of a breech baby. There are risks of c-sections and there are risks of breech births (Hello… there are RISKS OF LIFE ITSELF but that’s another article!) – you have to weigh the risks. We also know of some midwives who are skilled and experienced with breech deliveries and might be a good resource for you. Most of them, however, will only take on a breech client if the mother is 100% confident in her ability to birth a breech baby. Emotional and mental preparation makes a big difference.
And, even if a c-section was not a part of your Birth Plan, please know that there are definitely times to exercise that option. Either way, YOU have to make an informed decision that feels right to you and be 100% responsible for your choice.
A few resources supporting the normalcy of breech vaginal birth:
Article: Breech Does Not Equal C-Section
“The conclusions? Not only are breech babies generally at no more at risk during vaginal delivery than if delivered by C-section, but natural vaginal delivery is far safer for mothers…Glezerman emphasized at the Canadian meeting that a C-section is not simply another method of delivering a baby. It is a major surgical procedure that carries with it some potentially life threatening risks; it also decreases the chances a woman can breastfeed. What’s more, having a C-section also increases risks for women when they become pregnant again in the future. That’s because once a woman has delivered by C-section, it becomes more dangerous and occasionally impossible to deliver vaginally because the Caesarian section surgery raises the risk uterine walls and muscles could rupture during birth.
Article: Is Breech Vaginal Delivery Safe?