Breech birth occurs when a baby emerges from the birth canal feet first or buttocks first rather than head first. Less than 4% of babies are breech.
The opinion of traditional medicine has always been that breech birth is dangerous and should be avoided through the use of cesarean section. However, the medical literature does not support this idea, as the following medical studies show:
Cheng, M., & Hannah, M.E. (1993), Breech delivery at term – a critical review of the literature, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 82, pp.605-618.
Gimovsky, M.L., Wallace, R.L., Schifrin, B.S., & Paul, R.H. (1983), Randomised management of the nonfrank breech presentation at term: a preliminary report, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, December,146, pp.34-40.
Hofmeyr, G.J. (1983), Effect of external cephalic version in late pregnancy on breech presentation and caesarean section rate: a controlled trial, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, May; 90 (5), pp.392-399.
Irion, O., Almagbaly, P.A., & Morabia, A. (1998), Planned vaginal delivery versus elective caesarean section: a study of 705 singleton term breech presentations, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, July, 105 (7), pp.710-717
Van Veelan, A.J., Van Cappellen, A.W., Flu, P.K., Straub, M., & Wallebburg, H. (1989), Effect of external cephalic version in late pregnancy on presentation at delivery: a randomised controlled trial, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,. August, (96), pp.916-921.
Walkinshaw, S. (1997), Pelvimetry and breech delivery at term, Lancet, December 20, 350 (9094), pp.1791-1792.
Zhang, J., Watson, A., & Fortney, J. (1993), Efficacy of external cephalic version: a review, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, August, 82 (2), pp.306-311.
It is believed by many that breech birth is dangerous because in some cases, after the baby's body has passed through the cervix, the cervix will close around the head, cutting off blood supply and oxygen to the baby. However, research has shown that often the reason this occurs is because many breech babies are premature, and therefore small, so the cervix does not get dilated as large as it would for a full term baby. Therefore, the statistics on breech birth make it look like it is dangerous for a full term baby, when actually the risk factors that make it dangerous are prematurity, low birth weight, and congenital malformations.
Also, if you think about it, why would the cervix suddenly close down after the body has gone through? When the baby is in the head down (vertex) position, does the cervix close around the baby's neck and shoulders after the head has passed through? No, so why should it close down after the body of the baby has gone through in a breech birth? Many believe that fear is the factor which causes this. When a woman sees that her baby is coming out in a breech position, she panics (or has fear instilled in her by her caregiver, who is uncomfortable with delivering a breech) and this causes the cervix to close. We all know that fear is a powerful force which can close the cervix and stop contractions.
The best and safest way for a breech baby to be born is in the standing position, and with absolutely NO INTERFERENCE OR ASSISTANCE from anyone. Totally relax and allow gravity to do the work of guiding the baby out. Under no circumstances should anyone be allowed to try and manipulate the baby out of the mother's body. This can result in neurological trauma to the infant.
Breech birth is perfectly normal and natural. It is a variation of normal and not to be considered an emergency or dangerous. Trust the baby, and trust your body. The baby is in that position for a reason, and he/she knows best.
If for some reason you would like to try and turn the baby before the birth process begins, there are a variety of methods, such as breech tilt slantboard exercises, yoga exercises, knee-chest exercises, the emotional approach, hypnosis, using cold things to turn the baby, use of music, moxa, accupressure, chiropractics (The Webster Technique), homeopathics, and flower essences. There is also external cephalic version, which I personally don't recommend. To read about these techniques, go to gentlebirth.org
While these different methods may work for some people, I prefer just to meditate, visualize the baby coming out the way you want it to, talk to the baby and tell him/her that you need him/her to move and turn around. Since babies have not only a physical but also intuitive link with their mothers, those who also trust and listen to their intuition have found this to be very effective.
As with all other aspects of birth, you are in control of the experience. However, don't let the fact that you are in control cause you to disrespect the baby's wisdom. Babies know exactly what they need to do to come out safely, so don't try to second guess your child.
Read about Laura Shanley's breech birth at: Willie's Birth Story
Back to The Online Childbirth Class