What to Do when Baby is Breech
Finding out your baby is breech can be an emotional experience.
I know for my friend who just gave birth, the last few months were filled with anxiety and doing everything possible to get baby to turn. As her due date approached, she slowly began to accept that baby may know best for position, even though she continued to work hard to give baby the opportunity to move into a head down position.
For most of us, even if we don’t know why, we know that the best way for baby to be born is head first.
Sticking with the physical aspects of birth, having the head birth first follows the natural curve of the spine and allows the body to follow along smoothly.
However, when baby is feet or bum first, this does not happen.
Since the dawn of cesarean birth, babies who are [known to be] breech for the most part have been scheduled to be born through a cesarean. The medical community feels the pros of a cesarean out way the risks of of a breech vaginal birth, for most moms.
So if you are a woman who really wants to have a vaginal birth, the fear of a cesarean can be very strong.
But how you handle that fear can be even stronger. Having an experienced provider who is open to assisting a breech vaginal birth would be wonderful, unfortunately, that is not always available.
So what can you do?
Fortunately, most babies turn on their own, with 3-4% remaining breech at birth (source). But there are ways to support your body and baby through this process when there are no other medical complications preventing baby from turning.
Inspired by my friends journey I put together my top 6 strategies (in no particular order) to help baby turn into a head down position.
The main focus to all these strategies is to create space in the pelvis. The pelvis is the outlet for birth. There is the upper ring and lower ring made up of two bony sides (or wings I call them), the sacrum, and soft tissue. These rings can expand and shrink depending on posture, muscle and tissue tension, and joint movement. Performing techniques that target softening and expansion of these rings is the goal!
Pelvic Opening Exercises
Doing stretches that promote widening of the pelvis and gentle mobility of the sacroiliac joints does just that. These exercises involve a lot of stretching the muscles and tissues around the low back, trunk, pelvis and hips.
An example of one exercise sequence I teach my patients are pelvic tilts, circles & sways.
These can be done in various positions but there are 3 that I find most effective: hands and knees, a birth ball or standing. They can be performed from small to large movements, slow or fast, and as many as feel comfortable.
They are great to do throughout pregnancy as well as while in labor.
Spinning Babies was created by Gail Tully as strategies to help optimize babies position. They provide exercises and hands on techniques to create space for baby to “spin” in utero to be in the best position for birth.
They offer online support and in person care through providers trained with Spinning Babies.
Fascial Release Bodywork
Sometimes muscles and joints that become tight over years of imbalance may need more than stretching and movement to create space.
Using a form of manual therapy that targets the fascial system. This system is a network of connective tissue that surrounds and is interwoven into every fiber of the body and provides the support necessary for optimal functioning.
When the fascial system is dehydrated and restricted it inhibits muscles and joints. Fascial release nourishes these tissues, allowing them to open up and create space. Performing releases around the spine, ribs, pelvis and hips improves babies chance of finding optimal position.
This technique is used by Chiropractors to analyze the sacrum for subluxation and provide adjustments accordingly to restore neuro-biomechanical function.
While this technique does not necessarily create more space, sacral subluxation can cause baby mal-position, due to the imbalanced of space in the pelvis. Bringing the sacral into alignment allows baby to find a better position.
Osteopathic manipulation are hands on techniques that Doctors of Osteopathy use to balance joints and surrounding tissues. Again, various techniques can be utilized to manipulate the spine, pelvis and sacral joints to target the uterine and cervix ligmants and muscles to bring alignment to the area and remove mechanical interferance to baby’s position.
Acupuncture is another technique that can be used to open the pelvis and hips to create space for baby to turn into optimal birth position. Acupuncture points are targeted in the back, arms, hands, legs, and feet to remove restrictions and improve energy flow in the sacrum, surrounding muscles and uterine ligaments.
Some acupuncturists are also trained to do Moxabustion, a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique where moxa (Chinese herb) is burned over a point in the outer toe. This has been shown to be effective in turning babies for hundreds of years in China and recently validated with randomized controlled-studies.
I invite you to an informational consult call to learn more about how I can help your baby find optimal position as a maternal pelvic health physical therapist!