My breech (stubborn) baby and our ECV movement

When I reached week 35 and my baby’s head was still up under my ribs, I knew she needed a little guidance in moving down into birth-ready position. Despite being told she still had time to move, I knew (thanks to trusty pregnancy apps and my wonderful midwife) that most babies will have turned by now, and to say I was becoming a little stressed out was probably an understatement. If I wasn’t already irritable enough in this point in my pregnancy, this really helped get me over the edge.

For me, having a natural birth was important. I wanted to experience it (as crazy as that may sound) and I wanted my baby to have the best entrance into the world as possible. There are many benefits of having a natural birth over a caesarian, and while some Mummies don’t have the option to choose between the two, I was lucky enough to have a few options up my sleeve in attempt to help baby turn around and so to exhaust each option was a definite for me. If these options didn’t work, my midwife recommended I try an External Cephalic Version (ECV movement). This I most definitely did not want to do. The thought of someone pushing hard into my belly to force my baby into another position terrified me. What if it hurt my baby? What if it stresses my baby? What if it brings on premature labour? What if it hurts me? Nope. I didn’t like the idea of this sort of interference and I was almost positive at 35 weeks pregnant that is is something I probably wasn’t going to try. So we made a plan of our own….

  1. Positive thinking. I know it sounds lame, believe me… I know. I am more of a realist and I like to consider all outcomes rather than just think everything is honkey-dorey because sometimes, things simply don’t work out the way we want. When my midwife and my partner both told me I needed to think positively, I knew I really had to try. So I googled positive thinking youtube videos (for reals) and finished the videos feeling refreshed and ready for a new way of thinking. Every time I caught myself stressing about her being head down, I reminded myself that stressing was pointless and that she still had time. I also had a few mother-daughter chats with her and asked her nicely for the billionth time to just spin around… cos that was likely to work…..
  2. Acupunture. I had been recommended to a lady near home by several friends with babies and my midwife, so I gave it a go. Lea Papworth is located at Hilton in SA and while I was a bit skeptical of the process, I was willing to try anything and everything. Lea had me fill out a questionnaire which helped her identify what could be stopping baby from turning into birth ready position, and then popped little needles into pressure points which helped with these potential causes. She then burned little moxabustion sticks behind my smallest toe on each foot. After just one session with Lea, I took home a box of moxa sticks and was told to burn the moxa behind my small toe for 10 minutes (each foot) twice a day. I didn’t enjoy this at all. Aside from the burning of the sticks causing my partner massive asthma attacks which resulted in me having to try sit in a very uncomfortable position and hold the sticks by my small toes myself for 20 minutes a day (if you’re 35+ weeks pregnant you’l understand how difficult this would be!!), the smell made me feel a bit sick and it made me very hot. I am always hot by the way, like boiling hot. Like, need the a/c on ALL the time despite it being only 25 degrees outside hot… Regardless, if you’d ask me if I think Acupunture is worth it or not, I’d say it’s worth a shot. I didn’t top up on my moxa sticks when they ran out, but I am glad I gave it a crack.
  3. Chiro. I think my partner is way more skeptical of this one than I was… I met with a Chiro recommended to me by my midwife and he tried the Webster’s technique on me, as well as putting pressure on a few points to help loosen them. The pressure points he pressed on absolutely killed. I had to hold my breath until he let go. He did warn me it would hurt, and again – I was willing to try anything and everything to help baby turn. I think I saw the chiro about 5 or so times.
  4. Headstands in the pool. 10 in a row for as long as I could. Considering the only pool I would consider doing this in is my partner’s Mum’s pool (about 20 mins away from home), I didn’t get to do this very often but a few times was enough. It’s not fun. More annoying than anything. But again, worth a crack.

I bet you’re wondering whether or not any of these techniques actually worked… That’s hard to say, really, but by week 37 when the midwife confirmed what I already knew – baby had still not turned, I knew it was time to really consider the ECV movement. We went to my 37 week midwife appointment for our normal measurement and blood pressure checks, and ended up making the spontaneous decision to do the ECV that same day. I couldn’t think about it anymore, I just had to get it done. It took a lot of reassurance that it was safe for me to come to this decision, and I of course spoke with my partner about it too to make sure he was comfortable with the idea (he’s been at all my appointments with me so I knew he was happy to do what I felt comfortable with).

We made sure we understood everything before agreeing to the procedure. What would happen if it brought on labour? How will we know it’s not stressing the baby out? Could it hurt the baby? Could it break any of the babies bones? What other risks are there? We asked ALL the questions you could possibly think of. When it came down to it, the idea of doing this safe procedure over the possibility of not having a natural birth was the winner. So we left the hospital, grabbed some lunch and then returned at 1pm that same day to spin this baby around.

When we arrived back at the hospital, my midwife put a heart rate monitor and contraction monitor on my belly and this was watched for about half hour (to ensure baby is happy and healthy before starting the procedure). The doctors then came in and did an ultrasound to check that baby was definitely head up and to determine which way they’d likely spin her (clockwise or anti clockwise). A forward spin was decided on, I was given a shot of Terbutaline to help relax the muscles in my uterus, and after a few more minutes of making sure I was comfortable and ready, the procedure started.

I couldn’t watch, but my partner did, and he told me afterwards that the doctors was pretty much using all their body weight to push down into my belly. No wonder it hurt so effing much. Not going to sugar coat it for you, it killed. There were two doctors working on me, both were lovely and offered to give me breaks when they could see the pain was becoming too much for me. Without these breaks, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I kept holding my breath and tensing up, which is the opposite of what you should to if you want your uterus to relax and baby to slip with ease into a totally different position. But imagine four hands pressing down hard (hard) into your stomach where your precious human lives, with all their weight digging in… Tensing up and holding your breath is instinct. “Keep breathing”, “The success of this process depends on you relaxing your stomach”, “Don’t hold your breath, keep breathing”, I remember them telling me. The constant reminders of this got me through. I breathed and I relaxed my stomach, and I cried and swore. I felt my partner holding my hand and I heard him tell me I was doing good, and to breathe and that ‘she’s moving’, ‘it’s working’ and ‘you’re almost there’! Between my midwife and my partner on either side of me speaking these words to me, I remembered that the baby was safe and that this was working. This was all that mattered.

The procedure took about 10 minutes but felt like a lifetime. The happiness that we felt when it was over and we saw our baby head down on the ultrasound screen was overwhelming. We did it. The doctors afterwards said she was quite difficult to turn and the procedure is normally easier than what I just went through. Whatever. I didn’t care. It was over and baby was safe AND head down, so that really didn’t matter to me anymore. We kept the heart rate monitor on for another half hour or so following the procedure and when all was confirmed to be good, we left. That night, I was terrified she’d move back around and my stomach felt incredibly bruised and sore, so sleep just didn’t happen for me. I now wear a belly band (which also helps with my sciatica) 24/7 to keep everything nice and tight (because if it’s tight, I figured she’d be snug in her position with less chance to move HAHA), I went for regular walks and I bounced lightly on my exercise ball whenever possible. My belly did feel quite sore and bruised later that day and especially the next day, but that went away in no time.

Whether or not the Acupunture, Chiro, headstands worked, I don’t know. The positive thinking though? That definitely played a role. Without positive reinforcement during the ECV, I may have lost motivation and given up. Baby and I were ready for a natural birth (obviously anything could have happened between then and labour but we are positive thinkers in this household!) and I couldn’t be happier.

If your baby is breech and you’ve been given the option of the ECV movement, I do think trying to exhaust all other avenues first is worth it, because if you can avoid the ECV – well, why wouldn’t you? It doesn’t hurt to try. I probably wouldn’t do the ECV movement again with our future baby/ies, because it really was an awfully painful experience for me and just didn’t feel natural. It also only has a 40-50% success rate and for the level of pain I personally experienced, that just isn’t worth it for me to go through again. In saying that, I am glad we did it this time around and am incredibly grateful that we had success. One week later, our beautiful, healthy baby girl was born… But that story is for another post.. Stay tuned!

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