Part 25 - Trying to turn a breech baby
I had seven weeks to turn my breech baby before the specialist would start talking about Caesarean Section delivery. It sounded like plenty of time.
I began reading extensively on breech birth and discovered that about 3% of babies present as breech, which was just typical really and summed up my pregnancies. There was always something that had to be different about them!
Still, most babies who are in the breech position between 32 to 34 weeks turn themselves into a headfirst position by birth. If the baby remains breech at 37 weeks it may be possible for an obstetrician to turn the baby using a technique called external cephalic version. It’s said that just over half of babies are turned this way, albeit not the most comfortable of procedures to go through for the mother.
There were other ways and I was directed to www.spinningbabies.com which has lots of information about breech babies and tips on how to turn them. I was determined that I wasn’t having another Caesarean section so I was keen to try everything I could to attempt to turn my breech baby.
Initially I tried the breech tilt which meant that I lay upside down on an ironing board which had one end resting up against the bed. I’d come across this concept a few years earlier when I’d read a fictional book about a Canadian midwife employing such tactics to help a baby turn. It had stuck in my mind as an ingenious way to help prevent breech delivery and now here I was doing the same.
If I’m truthful, it wasn’t the most comfortable position to find myself in. Furthermore, I didn’t know how I was going to find the time to lie like that for 20 minutes three times a day, which is the recommended period if you want to stand a chance of it working. And what exactly was I going to do while lying there, it’s certainly not the ideal position for meditating or yoga nidra.
I decided I’d be better off practicing more headstands and shoulder stands in my yoga practice instead. It was the same with the recommended handstand in the swimming pool, I decided I’d just practice more handstands against the wall at home. It was ironic really as I couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t the handstand that had gotten me into this mess in the first place, although I had this feeling it would have happened regardless.
Then there was the moxibustion, which uses tightly rolled sticks of mugwort herb much like a stick of incense. You light one end of the moxibustion stick and the coal that this creates is held over an acupuncture point on the foot to heat the point and help the baby turn. E thought it was nonsense but I felt that it was worth a try.
So while I lay on the sofa reading a book, E tried to hold the heated stick at the right place on my foot. I have to say that despite being very receptive to this sort of thing, I just wasn’t feeling it. I mean literally, there wasn’t any shift in the positioning of the baby, and furthermore, I couldn’t be sure that E was positioning the stick properly.
I also tried reflexology, Cranial-sacral work and Bowen therapy. I’m a huge fan of homeopathy so I tapped into this too and took the homeopathic remedy, Pulsatilla. I’d read that if taking this remedy for three days doesn’t turn the baby then it is unlikely the baby will turn. Unfortunately, after three days the baby hadn’t turned.
It was then that I came across this marvellous blog posting written by a lady about her journey to try to turn her breech baby. This lady wrote about how she’d tried all the same techniques that I had tried and that nothing had worked. Then, at the last minute, she’d had a massive emotional melt down and totally let go…and lo and behold right at the last minute the baby turned.
I really didn’t want to have any medical intervention so this blog posting gave me some hope. I was getting desperate by this stage and was determined that something had to work, the baby had to turn. It was probably in recognising my desperation, and being so frustrated that nothing was working that I too had a big emotional meltdown, the tears flooding my yoga mat one morning.
Still the baby didn’t turn but still there was hope. I was told stories of pregnant ladies being prepped to go to theatre for a Caesarean Section only for the Midwife to double check the baby’s position and find that at the last moment the baby had flipped head down and could be birthed vaginally.
The trouble was, I had this niggling feeling that this baby just wasn’t going to turn. It seemed very comfortable in its breech position and no amount of manipulation on my part seemed to make any difference. Furthermore, no amount of shoulder stands, headstands or handstands had any effect either. And with the other techniques, well a little like the homebirth, I was just going through the motions really as E looked on bemused!
I continued my research and discovered that there are a number of physical reasons that one may have a breech baby including the following:
· Smaller than average baby;
· In multiple pregnancies one baby may be lying in the breech position;
· There may not be enough, or too much, amniotic fluid;
· The placenta may be covering the womb’s entrance (like I had with Elijah).
· Tightness in the womb or pelvic misalignment, perhaps from carrying a toddler on one’s hip.
I could relate to some of this. I had started to see a biodynamic cranial sacral therapist as I was having issues with my sacrum and felt that my pelvis was misaligned, due to constantly carrying Elijah on my left hip. However, I also had a feeling that there was more to it than all this and I researched the non-physical reasons for a breech presentation too. These included the following:
· The mother-to-be harbouring a lot of fear about becoming a mother;
· The mother-to-be and her mother having unresolved conflict;
· The mother-to-be not wanting to ‘give up’ carrying her baby.
· The mother needing to ‘hold’ the baby close to her heart due to fears of birth, parenthood, and/or fear about the world the baby will be born into;
In a similar vein, others believe that the baby can sense when their mothers are stressed or in emotional pain and may move into a breech position so that they can be closer to her heart in order to comfort her – a breech baby may have strong instincts already.
There’s also a belief that breech babies are on a mission in this life time and arrive feet first so that they can firmly plant their feet on the Earth and get going. Others believe they arrive this way so that they can look their Mother in the eye and move through life together, and yet with a strong conviction of their own. Folklore suggests that a breech baby will have healing powers.
I found this all very fascinating as I could relate to some of it. My life was busy and there were times where I was stressed. I was working very hard on a few projects that I was keen to complete before the baby arrived. In my mind, I had given myself the deadline of my October Herm Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat when I would be 33 weeks pregnant, to complete everything After that I intended to slow things down up until the anticipated birth at 40 weeks.
However, sitting with it, I began to consider that perhaps this wasn’t about me, that perhaps it was part of the bigger picture. This is not to say that I didn’t still feel a pressure to turn the baby, but more so that I had a feeling the baby was not going to turn regardless of what I did. Thus I started to read up on breech delivery and was fascinated by what I read.
Beginning in the 1960s, obstetricians gradually shifted the way they delivered breech babies because they preferred the predictability and the presumed greater safety of a Caesarean birth. But not every doctor jumped on the Caesarean Section band wagon immediately; with many continuing to favour vaginal breech births.
That is, until the Hannah Term Breech Trial (“TBT”) published in 2000 brought them to a screeching halt. The TBT followed 2,083 breech babies in 26 countries, randomly assigned to either vaginal or planned Caesarean section delivery. Early data suggested fewer newborn deaths and injuries occurred in the Caesarean section group. The impact of the study was incredible – within months’ breech Caesarean Sections increased from 50% to 80% and by 2006, it was at 90%. Then it was discovered that the study was flawed.
In fact, critics began poking holes in the TBT immediately after its publication. For example, some poor outcomes attributed to vaginal delivery occurred in birth centres that used substandard techniques or unskilled birth attendants. Some babies had genetic defects or were premature.
In short, most weren’t injured because they were delivered vaginally, but because of other factors. Further study indicated that most of the babies recovered fully from their birth injuries regardless of delivery method, and researchers also hadn’t factored in the increased health risks resulting from Caesarean sections.
It was felt that the results should have supported informed decision-making, but instead, hospitals reacted by taking the choice away from women. Another unfortunate result was that medical schools stopped teaching vaginal breech delivery skills to an entire generation of new doctors and midwives. This sadly is the current reality we face – that the medical profession lack both the knowledge and skill to deliver a breech baby naturally.
I watched a number of videos on the internet of breech babies being born vaginally and there was something rather special and beautiful about these. Still when I mentioned to people that I would like to have a go at a vaginal breech delivery, I was surprised by their reaction – there was so much fear!
I was told that the birth would be extremely painful and that I would be putting my baby’s health at risk. I was made to feel that I was silly for even suggesting the idea. It made me laugh because the alternative of a Caesarean Section is not exactly a walk in the park either – it’s just easier for the medical profession to control.
I spoke to the Head of Midwifery about the possibility of a vaginal breech delivery and she said that even if a specialist agreed to go ahead with the notion, it wouldn't be a birth I would want for my baby (or for me) due to the medicalised nature of it. It would involve constant monitoring and doubtlessly intervention whether it was needed or not.
It made me feel sad that there is so much fear about breech delivery. My cousin was a breech baby and born vaginally, my Aunt living to tell the tale. And clearly breech babies are still being born vaginally, certainly in the home environment by those midwives skilled in this form of delivery. I was heartened to read that there are some murmurs of trying to normalise breech delivery again.
This gave me a little hope and I certainly wasn’t prepared to give up on the idea. I played around with the possibility of employing the skills of an independent midwife, but something held me back from taking this forward. I was very much of the mind-set that I would just wait and see what happened nearer the time, I just had a feeling that it would all become clearer. Ha, little could I have imagined!