My Baby is Breech, But I’m Not Going To Stress About It
A few weeks ago, at my prenatal check-up, my midwife delivered some unsurprising news to me: my baby is breech. I say it was unsurprising, only because I have been in this position before, and also because I had been feeling the pitter-patter of little feet on my hips for weeks, so I had suspected my little lady was turned upside down.
The midwife confirming that my baby was, in fact, breech, should have scared me a little, but instead, I felt a strange sense of calm settle in over me as she pointed out how my daughter was laying face up alongside my belly, like she was floating in the world's most relaxing pool. (And hey, with an August due date, maybe she totally got that from me, as I have been practically living in my pool!)
I knew that not only did I have a lot of time before my due date, giving her plenty of time to flip back the “right” way, I also couldn't stress about something I couldn't control. I had been through this once, and this time, I knew better than to stress the entire rest of my pregnancy. Here's what I want you to know if you, too, hear those words: “Your baby is breech…” at your own doctor's check-up.
Here are some facts about breech babies:
Breech babies are pretty rare
The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) explains that true breech babies at full-term (meaning 37 weeks or more) are still pretty rare–only 3 to 4% of all women will reach full-term in their pregnancies and have this occur.
Breech babies can turn at any time
The reason breech babies at full-term can be so rare might have something to do in part with the fact that breech babies can literally turn at any point in your pregnancy and even all the way up through birth. Obviously, your doctor probably won't let you take the risk of going into labor with a breech baby, but it's still comforting to me to know that breech babies have the ability to turn at any point, and it's not a “for certain” sentence if this happens as you near your due date. I can also attest to this fact, as in my last pregnancy, I had a breech baby for my entire last trimester, and she finally flipped around the day before I was scheduled to make a decision about a C-section. Yay!
Breech deliveries can be done–but there are risks
Breech deliveries clearly used to be done a lot more often than they are now, simply because practitioners didn't have all the resources to diagnose breech babies or schedule C-sections to avoid a woman with a breech baby going into labor. Thus, breech deliveries were taught to doctors so they could minimize their risks. That being said, however, the risks of a breech delivery include increased rates of fetal and maternal complications, like a prolapsed umbilical cord, cord compression, difficulties with head delivery, and oxygen supplies being cut off to the baby. So while it may be interesting to look into the possibility of delivering a breech baby, the risk is usually just not worth it. If your doctor advises a C-section for a breech baby, it's 100% for both you and your baby's safety, so don't be afraid to choose a C-section.
You can get your breech baby turned manually
The ACOG also explains that you can work with your doctor or a specialist to turn a breech baby manually–as in from the outside. This is called external cephalic version, or ECV, and it can be done both safely and successfully. Not all doctors are trained to do them, so if your doctor refuses to offer you one, it may be worth checking into an option of working with a specialist or another doctor so you can avoid a C-section. An ECV should always be done with a trained doctor and done in a hospital, so you have access to the OR or other resources if there is an emergency.
A breech baby is not a sign of a problem
According to the ACOG, while a baby who has a genetic problem or birth defect may be unable to flip head down properly, on its own, a breech baby does not indicate that something is wrong. Most breech babies are developmentally normal, so there's no need to worry if your doctor tells you your baby is breech.