Below is my experience with having a breech baby and a successful External Cephalic Version (ECV) to turn her and have a vaginal birth:
When I think back on my pregnancy with Persephone, I find that my memories are sufficiently fuzzy and pleasant in nature. However, objectively I know that it was not a walk in the park by any means. I dealt with all the normal things that most women have to deal with, with the added bonus of having Gestational Diabetes (which I go over in detail in another post). But everything else was going along relatively well until I went into my 36 week appointment and my midwife announced that my baby with breech.
Breech. One of the many things that you don’t want to hear a short 4 weeks before your due date. She was head down (with a 85 percentile head) a few short days before during my growth ultrasound. How could this be? SURELY I would have felt that sort of move. While my mind raced trying to process this implication, she asked when I would like to schedule a “version” to turn the baby. I numbly nodded, knowing that I wanted to avoid a C-section at any cost.
Natural birth had always been the goal. Gestational diabetes shook that path, but after controlling it with a strict diet I was certain that my birth would not be impacted past extra blood sugar testing before and after labor. But breech? I was devastated. I felt like now my body had truly betrayed me completely. And this time it was going to cost me more than just no ice cream and pricks on my fingers.
Persephone was not frank breech, she was technically oblique, with her head in my ribs and butt sitting on my left hip. Looking back, this was probably very lucky as it meant that neither her butt nor feet were logged in pelvis.
Ok, so moving through my stages of grief. First was denial, then anger, and now bargaining. I was not going to let this baby remain breech dammit. With my ECV scheduled in 10 days I was going to try my hardest to get her turned around.
First, this meant hanging upside down 3 times a day. And no I’m not kidding.
It’s called a breech tilt, and no, it’s not comfortable when you have a stomach the size of a watermelon. Unfortunately, doing these did nothing except making me almost pass out from blood rushes to the head.
The second thing I tried was walking, but it was a little too late as walking a mile or two a day promotes baby to move head down earlier in pregnancy. But at 36 weeks, she was just too big for it to do any good in that regard.
Next, it was time to turn to Chinese medicine. I did acupuncture at least 4 times in those 10 days, but while relaxing, she didn’t turn.
Then I tried moxibustion. This is done by burning two moxi sticks next to your little toes to promote the baby to move. And yes, this is also a thing.
Surprisingly, it made her super active. However, yet again it seemed like it was too little too late, as she was too big to turn herself.
I was ready to give up. My last hope for a vaginal birth was the ECV. There were risks, but I thought that the risks of the ECV were equivalent to needed a C-Section. And at that point I was resigned to having one to avoid disappointment, comforted by the fact that I would have a healthy baby at the end of the day.
As for the actual ECV procedure, I was scheduled to show up at Labor & Delivery at 7 AM that morning after not having eaten for 12 hours. Which is pretty much a nightmare for a pregnant women as well as someone who is supposed to be monitoring their blood sugar. After being admitted I waited for an hour or two in the room while they monitored the baby and waited for the OB to become available. Surprisingly, I was already having small contractions that I couldn’t feel.
Once the OB and her partner where done delivering another baby the nurse gave me terbutaline, which suppresses the contractions while they try and turn the baby. It hit like a rush of adrenaline making me flush and shaky. To my surprise, as the OB was feeling Persephone’s bottom and head to see how easy it was to move her, she just kept turning.
“Are we starting now?”
By the time I asked that question, she was already turned around. Besides a bit of pressure (obviously), I felt almost no pain. The OB was almost as surprised as I was that she was so easy to turn. And after getting her head into a good position and confirming everything with the ultrasound, I was done. My stomach was wrapped in a binder to keep her head down, and I was done.
Relief washed over me, still shaky from the drugs. The ECV was a success, and I would be able to go on and have a vaginal birth.