Breech Birth


When it comes to childbirth, one thing has not changed over the years, and that is the fact that 3 to 4 percent of babies present in the breech position at birth. That means that of the 4 million births in our country each year, the amount of breech presentations are up to 160,000! Ina May Gaskin writes about how she has seen in the past 40 years vaginal breech birth go from being familiar to obstetricians, and facilitated in the hospital, to where it is no longer taught to OBs, and standard protocol in hospitals is a cesarean with no trial of labor. About 40 years ago, the cesarean rate in our country was just over 5%, today it ranges from 35%-47%. How many of those are actually necessary?
It is true that some babies flip from vertex (head down) to breech during labor, but in the majority of cases, a mom has enough time to work on changing baby’s position weeks before labor starts. There are several options for changing baby to a head down position long before a cesarean is scheduled simply because of baby’s position.
When a pregnant woman’s hips are out of alignment, the pelvic outlet is made narrower. If a baby cannot fit well into the pelvis, he or she will try different positions until something fits, and in this case, it may be knees, feet, or butt first. Regular chiropractic adjustments throughout pregnancy are recommended and beneficial, and are effective at reducing morning sickness, pelvic and back pain, reducing the risk of preterm labor, as well as reducing pain during labor and time of labor and delivery. If a baby is in the breech position, a chiropractor trained in the Webster Technique may be seen from about 32 weeks, and it is best to plan for a few visits. This technique has an 85% success rate for turning babies right side down. As the baby gets closer to term and settles into the pelvis, it is less likely that he/she will turn.
What a visit will generally look like at the chiropractor is first visualizing which hip is out of alignment, then gently pressing on the hips if needed, and the Webster Technique, which is gentle pressure on one of the uterus’ round ligaments. Some moms are afraid of snap-crackle-popping, but that is not always what a chiropractic adjustment is like.
A method for turning babies that is used in the hospitals is called external cephalic version, or e-version. It has a success rate of 35%, it is painful, and can be dangerous, which is why it is done under visualization of ultrasound. The CNM or OB uses her/his hands on the outside of the belly to massage baby around to a head down position.
One of the least invasive techniques is called moxabustion. It is cheap and painless. Moxa, which is made from the herb Mugwort, is rolled in paper and burnt close to the outside of the outer toe for 15 minutes, 2 times per day until baby turns. This is a trick of Chinese medicine which uses the body’s energy to bring desired effects. There is a meridian, a channel of energy, that runs from the point next to the little toenail’s outer corner, up to the uterus. The success rate is 80%-90% when done between 34-36 weeks’ gestation. It goes down a bit when done later in pregnancy; 65%-75% after 36 weeks.
Another method using the same theory is acupuncture. This uses tiny needles to activate acupressure points in the body. I have seen it done several times in labor and to induce labor, and I am happy to report that none of the women complained of pain or discomfort! Most of them barely noticed the needles. Acupuncture can also be used for many other female issues such as PMS, infertility, water retention, fatigue, insomnia, and the list goes on.
The most important thing is that each woman knows that she has options when it comes to how and where to give birth, whether or not her baby is in the breech position. Do research, ask questions, and something very important to know about hospitals: they work for you! Stop nurses and doctors to ask them what they are doing and why, ask if it is necessary, and what your options are. This is the main role of a doula, who as an advocate in hospital birth can be your guardian angel.
Lilia Designs

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