How to turn a breech baby

One of the more common reasons a woman is given for “needing” a C-section is that her baby is breech–that is, the head is near the top of the uterus, instead of at the cervix. Prior to the 1970s, doctors were trained how to matter-of-factly handle breech births. At the time, C-sections were much riskier than they are today, so they were reserved for truly necessary situations. Most doctors nowadays do not have the knowledge or skill necessary to attend a vaginal breech birth–they were taught how to perform surgery instead of attending breech births. If you have been told that you must have a C-section because your baby is breech, you need to know your rights, as well as the risks to you and your baby from either a C-section or a vaginal birth. I would suggest reading Henci Goer’s book The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth for a fuller explanation of the risks and benefits.

There are many studies on breeches; but unfortunately, most of them are too small to draw firm conclusions. One study I recently read said that there are some definite factors that increase the risk of vaginal breech birth; but in the absence of these factors, vaginal breech birth is safe.

However, the best thing you can probably do is to try to get your baby to turn head-down. A few years ago, I combed through the internet looking for different ways to turn a breech baby, and I’ve compiled them in one file (see below). The reasons for the baby being breech in the first place probably has a lot to do with the success rate. The main reason a baby is breech is unknown; other contributing factors include too much or too little amniotic fluid, twins, placenta previa, abnormally-shaped uterus, fetal abnormalities, prematurity (only 3-4% of term babies are still breech once labor starts), cord problems and entanglements, and maternal tension. This list by no means takes the place of medical advice. Most of the “techniques” I’ve listed have not been formally studied, and some are more or less anecdotal.

· Relax!

o Many times maternal fears lead to tense muscles (including those of the uterus), making the breech position the most comfortable one for baby, or the one in which it was stuck, and is then unable to move to vertex because of the confines of the uterus

o Necessary for other turning attempts to work—no amount of turning will get the baby out of breech if the uterine muscles are just too tense

· External Cephalic Version

o Basically, someone manually turns the baby head-down by pressing and pushing on the mom’s stomach

o This is typically done at 36+ weeks, and can be done during labor

o There is the possibility of cord compression or some other cause of fetal distress, so it’s typically done in the hospital, in case a quick C-section needs to be done

o Some other countries tend to do ECVs earlier (31 weeks or so); this tends to make it easier, because the baby is smaller, so there is more room in the uterus, but there is a higher possibility of the baby turning back breech in the intervening weeks

· Webster technique

o A chiropractic technique in which the body is manipulated to release stress on the mom’s pelvis and relax the uterus and ligaments

· “Breech tilt”

o Mom lays on something like an ironing board (or several large pillows) with one end on the floor and the other end propped up on a couch, with her head on the floor side

o Done three times a day for 10-15 minutes at a time

o Best done on an empty stomach and when baby is active

· Music

o Play nice relaxing music near your pelvis to induce baby to come closer to hear better

o Or play loud raucous music near your fundus so baby will move away

· Shine a light near your pelvis, or even between your legs

· Have the father talk to the baby, low on the belly, and tell him/her to move

· Hypnotherapy (helps to relax)

· Lots and lots and lots of pelvic rocking

· Elephant walking (walking on hands and feet, to get your rear-end up as high as possible)

· Swimming—diving into pool, doing somersaults, or walking on your hands in the water

· Acupressure

· Drink plenty of fluids

o This may help especially if low amniotic fluid is making not enough room for baby to move freely enough to turn

· Posture

o Keep your belly open by keeping spine straight and tall

o Sit “Indian style”, leaning slightly forward

o Watch out for “bucket seats,” recliners, and other types of seats that tip you slightly back

· Moxibustion (a Chinese herb that is rolled into a stick, then the end is lit and put on various acupressure points of your body)

· Various herbs

· An ice pack or frozen bag of peas where the baby’s head is, to encourage it to move

Update: please click here to read a second post about breech babies, including why some babies may be breech.

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13 Responses

  1. [...] There are a lot of great resources for moms to go to.  For instance moms who have already had cesareans can go to ICAN to find a lot of great information about VBACs.  I also have gathered some resources here. For moms given the big baby card, I send them to this page I wrote about it, after having SO many moms say their OBs were feeding them this line.  Here is a great post with information for moms with Breech Babies.  [...]

  2. [...] or 3.6% of all births [Although even Dr. Amy Tuteur (who on her anti-homebirth blog derided me for saying the same thing, but actually wrote an article proclaiming it) said, "Most babies will do very well during a breech [...]

  3. [...] blog, I had just started this blog, and you checked it out, pulled a fragment of a sentence about breech birth out of what I had written, and mocked me on your blog, though what I had said was backed up by [...]

  4. [...] common thing that happens is that she is scheduled for a C-section (assuming the baby doesn’t flip to vertex, or cannot be turned by ECV). Occasionally, a woman may find a care provider who will allow her to [...]

  5. Big thanks, you have best articles and this one I liked the most!

    If You are so much interested in Yoga, I advise You to buy new Acupressure Mat – Pranamat.
    Please visit this site to learn more about Pranamat. This is so simple in use mat for acupressure technique and is made from 100% natural materials.

  6. Neat! I’m pregnant with my second child and can’t wait for the due date, even though I know a few things there’s plenty I don’t. Thanks for the information, you don’t know how much I appreciate it.Thanks!Darla

  7. [...] really like this resource for additional ideas to use for encouraging baby to [...]

  8. Forcing a baby to turn while in the stomach is dangerous and is what killed my baby brother. I ALWAYS tell people to NEVER do it. Pushing on a baby so hard that it hurts the mother and baby just so it will be in the position you want is wrong. Babies hearts sometimes can’t handle it..

  9. I am 19weeks pregnant and recently found out that I have a breech baby. I was very worried because I was unaware of what it was or how it could affect my pregnancy because I’ve been experiencing hip,leg ,abdominal pains n discomfort and being told that my baby is not positioned inthe right place.But after reading this page I am positive that my baby will be ok and i’ll be doing most of the things that can help turn my little gift from God.

  10. In reply to Courtney, I don’t think anyone is being forced to turn their baby and it should be your own responsibility to make sure that what ever you do is in the best interest of your baby. An adult will know that anything they do must not harm them or their unborn child. There are different ways u can attempt to turb the baby and they are safe like it was mensioned that u can use “music or the father can talk to the baby.”

    And I’m sorry to hear that you lost your baby brother.

  11. Turning breech babies can also cause birth defects. A csection is the safest…. that’s why they do them. My daughter was breech and I had a csection. Its no big deal.

    Please be more specific about what sort of birth defects can occur from turning breech babies. And citing a source would be helpful, too.

  12. At 19 weeks, most babies are breech, but will rotate later on. Don’t worry about that. I’m 31 and mine is still breech. I was on bed rest and told lay around for weeks in bed or a recliner, which is probably why baby is breech still. I really want a home birth and have no further complications so aside from the breech problem I am on track. Now, I have to figure out how to rotate the baby before it’s too late. A c-section is a last resort, but there isn’t a doctor in my entire state who delivers breech babies – what a shame! Glad to have found some tips for this!

  13. I just did couple of exercises, like a child pose and cat’s back from yoga for couple of minutes one evening and swam for two days slowly and she turned naturally. So basically I lifted my buttocks and supported myself on my elbows did couple of spine turning and “samba” moves with my butt and it helped. She turned in two days….I didn’t even have to go to get moxa to try the moxabution…..WE women can do it all by ourselves

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