Pregnancy is an exciting time – the anticipation of a new arrival, the beginning of your own family – creating your own little human being! It’s an amazing thing.
As well as being exciting, it can also be painful, tiring and even stressful.
When your child is in the ‘breech’ position, this can cause complications, and of course add stress to the pregnancy and birth process.
What is ‘breech’ presentation?
Anyone who has seen an ultrasound of their baby in the first trimester will tell you how much they can move about. As a result, baby position in the first two trimesters is often changing. Most babies will move into a ‘delivery’ position a few weeks prior to birth, with the head down, closer to the birth canal.
If this fails to happen, the baby’s buttocks and/or feet are positioned downward. This is referred to as ‘breech presentation’. Breech births occur in approximately four percent of full-term births. A breech presentation can create complications for both mother and baby, so planning for the birth requires discussion with your doctor or midwife.
Breech presentation on the left; ‘normal’ presentation, with head down, on the right.
How do I know if my baby is in a breech position?
It’s common for babies to be in a breech position before 35 – 36 weeks, but usually they will return to a normal presentation prior to the last month of gestation. A few weeks prior to your due date, your doctor or midwife will place her hands on your lower abdomen to locate the baby’s head, back, and buttocks. If it appears that the baby might be in a breech position, ultrasound can be used to confirm the position.
Is my baby at risk?
While your baby is still in the womb, there is no extra risk of harm from being in the breech position. When is comes to the birth, complications can occur. If your baby does not turn, or cannot be turned (see below) prior to full term, then you have two options. Vaginal delivery is an option, dependant upon the type of breech presentation and the skill of the midwives and/or medical staff among other factors. This is a discussion to have with your midwife or medical specialist. Caesarian section delivery is a more common option these days, avoiding some of the risks associated with a vaginal delivery.
Can my baby be turned?
If your baby has not turned by 37 weeks, your doctor or midwife may suggest a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV). In this procedure, muscle relaxants are given to the mother to relax the uterine muscles, and the obstetrician will manually manipulate the baby, encouraging movement toward a head down position.
Some midwives and doctors are now seeing the benefit of working with a chiropractor to help women achieve a better outcome with their birth. Misalignment of the sacrum and pelvis may contribute to difficult labour for the mother (i.e., dystocia). Dystocia is caused by inadequate uterine function, pelvic contraction, and baby malpresentation. The correction of pelvic and sacral misalignment may have a positive effect on all of these causes of dystocia. An American chiropractor, Dr Larry Webster, created a technique (now called the ‘Webster’ technique) to do just that.
Chiropractors trained in the ‘Webster’ technique work to improve the neuro-biomechanical function of the sacral/pelvic region by working with the pregnant woman’s pelvic alignment, surrounding musculature and the ligaments surrounding the uterus.
It is important to note that this is not a ‘breech turning’ technique. It is simply a method of restoring normal function to the sacral/pelvic region of a pregnant woman that allows her body to function the way it was designed to.
A journal article (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2002;25:000) referred to the survey of members of the International Chiropractic Paediatric Association using the Webster technique. The surveyed doctors reported a high rate of success (82%) in assisting pregnant women using the Webster Technique. While more study is need in this area, the Webster technique appears to be a safe option for women wishing to enhance their body’s ability to perform at its best.
If you have any questions about how correcting sacral/pelvic misalignment may help you, please call Canberra Spine Centre on (02) 6257 9400.