How to turn a Breech Baby

What is a breech baby?  During early pregnancy it is common for babies to be lying in a transverse position (lying side to side) or a diagonal position.  Around 24-29 weeks most babies move to a vertical position, the head is now heavy enough to encourage the baby to move so the head is down towards the bottom of the uterus, but some do move into a vertical position with their head up at the top of the uterus.  However, by weeks 36–37 weeks of pregnancy, most babies choose to turn so that their heads are down at the bottom of the uterus.  Only 3-4% of babies are in the feet first or bottom first position at term. Term is considered 37-42 weeks.  Thats 3 or 4 in every 100.  Many obstetricians suggest that babies who are in breech position at term are delivered via a cesarean section, although some mothers choose to birth their babies vaginally.  Any decision processes undertaken by the parents should include research on well respected websites and by reading books written by medically qualified authors, thereby ensuring they are fully informed, alongside discussing their particular circumstances with their medical team.

How can I encourage my breech baby to turn? There are a number of things you can do to encourage your baby to turn to the head down position.  I have added extra information and research results below about the following techniques. You can discuss these with your midwife.

  • External Cephalic Version
  • Hypnotic Breech Turn
  • Moxibustion
  • Chiropractic and Webster Technique
  • Positional Techniques (such as ‘Inversions’ and ‘Pelvic Tilt’)
  • Swimming or Floating

External Cephalic Version, known as ECV, is a procedure carried out by an Obstetrician to turn a baby from a breech position or side-lying (transverse) position into a head-down (vertex) position during late pregnancy, usually 36 – 38 weeks gestation.  Around 50% of babies can be turned this way.  Here are a couple of links for more information :-

Hypnotic Breech Turn, this is when a fully trained and insured hypnotherapist works with you using deep relaxation and visualisation to encourage the baby to move to the head down position.  As the baby chooses to move itself and no external force is put onto the baby, this is entirely safe and very relaxing.

Breech Turn Session: I offer hypnotic breech turn sessions at £65 per session which last anything from 1 – 2 hours.  I also include a rebozo technique called ‘sifting’ which relaxes and releases the broad ligament which can give the baby more space to move.

Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona Research:  Here is a summary from an interesting study presented in May, 1992 by Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona formerly of the Psychiatric Department, University of Vermont Medical School.

“The study included 100 women who were referred from practicing obstetricians and an additional 100 who responded to an advertisement. Only women carrying their babies in breech position at 36 weeks gestation or more were included.

Dr. Mehl-Madrona used hypnotherapy with the 100 women in the study group. The comparison group of 100 women had no hypnotherapy, though some did have ECV (external cephalic version), a procedure whereby the baby’s head is manually manipulated from outside the abdomen to bring about the downward turn.

In the study group the Mothers, while in hypnosis, were led through guided imagery to bring about deep relaxation. Suggestions were then given that they visualize their babies easily turning and see the turn accomplished, with the baby in proper vertex position for birthing. The Mothers were helped to visualize the uterus becoming pliable and relaxed in order to allow the baby sufficient room to make the move. The Mother was asked to talk to her baby, and the therapist encouraged the baby to release itself from the position it had settled into and to turn downward for an easy birth.

The study ended with 81 of the 100 breech babies having turned spontaneously from breech to vertex presentation. In the comparison group of 100 women who did not participate in hypnotherapy, only 26 babies turned spontaneously. An additional twenty turned with ECV. It is not uncommon for the baby who is turned through ECV to turn back into breech position. It was originally thought that each Mother would require approximately ten hours of hypnotherapy in order to accomplish the desired result. As the study unfolded, the average number of hours with each woman was only four, and half of the successful 81 turns required only one session.”

Moxibustion: this is a form of Chinese medicine usually carried out by an acupuncturist, but instead of acupuncture needles, the practitioner uses a lit mugwort stick to apply gentle heat to an area around a pregnant woman’s little toes. A woman is usually taught how to do this herself and continues doing this 3 – 5 times a day until the baby turns or is born.

Chiropractic or Webster Technique:  These are carried out by a Chiropractor who has been trained in the Webster Technique which addresses asymmetry in the pelvis and hipbones. They check for tighter or shorter ligaments. This method is about realigning the pelvis and optimizing space for the baby to move and descend.

Positional techniques (such as ‘Inversions’ and ‘Pelvic Tilt’):  A mother getting into certain positions is believed to encourage the baby to turn to a ‘head down’ position.  Here is a link to the Spinning Babies website where there is lots more information for you to help yourself.

Swimming or Floating:  There is no research I can find on swimming or floating to turn a breech baby, but my thoughts on this are that it seems logical that it would be easier for a baby to turn if the mother’s belly was relaxed and supported by water.  If a mother floats in the water face down with a float under her face to help her breathe, and a float under her feet to keep her in a horizontal position, then relaxes her uterine muscles, her baby may find that with the extra support of the water, and the relaxed muscles, it’s easier to move and turn.  As swimming is an enjoyable pastime, it seems to me this could be a win-win situation.