When I am performing pregnancy massage, one of the most common questions I get asked is how to turn a breech baby?
I think it is really important that mums understand that sometimes they just need to be patient.
Do all you can to encourage your baby into a vertex (head down) position early on, but please do not worry about turning a breech baby before 36 weeks.
Babies can make you wait then flip when you are experiencing pre-labour and some babies don’t flip until the onset of established labour.
First time babies generally move into position and engage anytime from 34 to 36 weeks. Every woman is different and every baby is different so what may occur with one woman may be different for the next – we are all unique.
There are a number of different complementary therapies and techniques that you can try that might help to turn a breech baby, and some of these are:
- Pregnancy Massage;
- Chiropractic (Webster Technique);
This is just to give you a bit of background on some of the things I suggest to mums with breech babies:
Pregnancy Massage is all about ensuring your mind and body are calm and relaxed to provide the best place for baby to be. If your muscles are tight and tense particularly with stress, then this will restrict the flexibility of the muscles and diminish the chances of baby being able to move around easily. During massage I focus on the pelvis, hips, glutes (particularly the piriformis muscle), hamstrings, quads and even the calves to lengthen out the muscles so you are not tight and tense – we want you to be loose and limp. I also work on the round ligament of the uterus as this is so important in relaxing the uterus and muscles of the pelvis and all the surrounding muscles.
Did you know in the later stages of pregnancy the round ligament stretches to about 10cm long and is as thin as the lead in a pencil? Before pregnancy the round ligaments are short and thick. By the time you are ready to birth, the round ligaments are like taut rubber bands, and sharp movements can cause the ligaments to overstretch and give a shooting pelvic pain.
This is why it is so important for women to have regular pregnancy massage and gentle stretching.
During the massage I talk to the mum as well, getting her to visualise a huge pelvis and a huge uterus with lots of fluid so that baby can move around easily.
Polar Bear Yoga Position – get onto your hands and knees, place your knees behind your hips, collapse down onto your elbows so that your bottom is in the air and your head is down on your arms (so in other words head down bum up). This will also take a lot of pressure off your lower back and generally feels very comfortable. Stay in this position for at least 15 minutes regularly throughout the day.
Breech Tilt – tilt your pelvis up by lying on your back and then propping your bottom up with a few cushions, or for those who are more flexible, lie upside down. Put your bottom on lots of pillows or lean the ironing board against the sofa or bed and the floor and lay upside down on it! Be really cautious when doing this technique and always make sure that someone is there to keep an eye on you and support you on and off. You can see a video demonstration of this on the Spinning Babies website – www.spinningbabies.com
Chiropractic – Webster Technique – when the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis become really tight, this can cause a misalignment in the sacrum, which then continues to cause more tightness and tension and can even cause the uterus to change shape. With this you also get a change in the alignment of the pelvis, which puts strain on the round ligaments, which causes more tension in the pelvis, and so begins this cycle of tension, which could prevent a breech baby from turning. Webster Technique is not considered a “breech turning” method by the Chiropractic Association, but rather it is more about readjusting the pelvis and providing relief from tension in the pelvic muscles and ligaments, giving the ideal room and encouragement for baby to turn.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find any videos from an Australian chiropractor, but you can click on the image to watch a good demonstration on the Webster Technique:
Acupuncture and moxibustion can be very effective on Bladder 67 (B67). This is the lateral point on the little toe where the nail joins the skin. I recommend you book an appointment with a qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner for acupuncture who can then also show you how to use the moxibustion sticks at home. I have a preferred TCM clinic that I refer all my clients to who specialise in fertility, pregnancy, labour, birth and breech turns.
Bladder 67 points – a favourite technique of mine which has been very successful with some of my clients I have suggested this to is placing pegs on the side of your little toes (where the nail joins the skin) to stimulate the Bladder 67 points (BL67).
(The pegs need to be placed sideways, not top to bottom). Do this for as long as you can although it can be quite intense (so at least 15 minutes at a time), then have a break then try again, several times throughout the day for as long as possible.
Visualisation and hypnotherapy – download an image of Optimal Foetal Positioning then print it out and put it on your fridge or in a place you will see it regularly. I am also able to offer a hypnosis session for breech turn with visualisation. One study by the University of Vermont College of Medicine showed that 81% of babies turned into the vertex position with the use of hypnosis performed on 100 women between 37 and 40 weeks of pregnancy.(From Archives of Family Medicine, Vol. 3, Oct. 1994 Hypnosis and Conversion of the Breech to the Vertex Presentation Lewis E. Mehl, MD, PhD Dept. of Psychiatry Univ. of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington).
The mind / body connection is such a powerful concept – don’t underestimate the power of the mind to help turn a breech baby.
Visualise your baby in the optimum foetal position, head down with baby facing your right leg and spine facing your left leg and moving down on the cervix.
One of my favourite hypnosis MP3 downloads is the Breech Turn, which was created by Melissa Spilsted of Hypnboirthing Australia and has been a very successful track for women to listen to and visualise their baby moving head down. I love it because it is just so gentle and relaxing, and helps pregnant women to reach that beautiful calm place in their mind and body – exactly what you need to encourage baby to turn.
Just click on the album to download your copy.
External Cephalic Version (ECV) is a procedure that can only be performed by your health care provider and is done to try and turn a baby who is in a breech or sidelying (transverse) position into a head down (vertex) position. This is usually done as close to the 37th week of pregnancy as baby is still small enough and has more space to turn. Anything before then is not recommended as baby may still turn on its own.
Your Obstetrician will place one hand on your abdomen where the baby’s head is and the other hand on the buttocks and then using a pushing and rolling technique try to encourage baby into the head down position. This procedure is quite uncomfortable, even painful, particularly if the Obstetrician is using hard pressure. You and your baby will be closely monitored and if baby appears to be in distress then the procedure is stopped.
One of my beautiful colleagues Maet Pearson from My Best Birth Australia who is an independent midwife and fellow Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner shared this fantastic video of her client having an ECV. While this mum received “light touch massage” from her partner, she also listened to the “Breech Turn” hypnosis track (as mentioned above) and also focused on her body being loose and limp and flexible. Her Obstetrician was patient and gentle and the ECV was successful. I have been given permission to share this video.
I also recommend that you don’t slouch on the couch or use lounges that promote poor posture, as you can reduce the space in the uterus that you need to allow baby to flip. Just make sure that when you are sitting your bottom doesn’t sink down so that your knees are up higher than your hips as this reduces the space in the pelvis.
Sit upright or stand straight up, moving your hips from side to side which opens up the pelvic area and can make it easier for your baby to move. Also place a cushion under your bottom while you are driving.
One of the techniques that mums actually find really supportive and comfortable is sitting on a fit-ball. You need to make sure that your knees are either at 90 degrees or preferably slightly lower than your hips, otherwise if the knees are higher than your hips you are reducing the amount of room in the pelvis and limiting the area for baby to move.
I have heard of mums who have done somersaults in their swimming pool along with floating to relax the body, which has helped baby to flip around. I’m not too sure that you would try this in winter time unless it was a lovely warm pool.
My favourite – sitting in a warm bath with a cold packet of peas on the top of your tummy may encourage baby to move from the cold patch into the warmth!
Sleep and spend time during the day lying on your left side with plenty of pillows to bolster between your legs and help you to feel more comfortable.
You can use a torch to try and encourage baby to flip around by placing the torch at the top of the belly and slowly moving in a semi-circle around to the bottom of the pelvis. Babies are instinctively curious and can see the light so will usually follow the light wherever you shine it, encouraging baby to flip around.
(This is also good to check baby movements in the latter stages if you haven’t felt baby move for a little while).
Here is a video from Melaleuca Mama showing movement of a baby with the torch shining through the belly.
Simply have “patience.” It is so important that pregnant women just trust that their mind and their body and their baby will work together instinctively and once all three are ready, then everything will just fall into place the way it is meant to. Sometimes we are all too quick to “do something about it” out of fear, rather than trusting our bodies to perform instinctively.
Nothing is broken, it doesn’t need fixing.
Sometimes baby’s will be in a breech position for a reason.
There are so many more ideas, but these are just a few that you can try. I would love to hear any others that mums have tried and found to be successful.
My name is Vicki Hobbs and I am a Childbirth Educator including Hypnobirthing in Perth, Pregnancy Massage & Pain Specialist, Birth & Postpartum Doula, Hypnotherapist, Reiki Practitioner and Life Coach. I am based in the northern suburbs of Perth and can be contacted on (08) 9303 9111 or feel free to send me an email [email protected]