"Your baby is breech." How do those words make you feel? Dismayed? Fearful? Disappointed? Why? Because our generation (and our mother's generation) has been lead to believe breech birth is too scary or dangerous to attempt. We've been led to believe that this type of birth requires a surgical procedure to remedy. Baby must not be allowed to exit in the normal way if they are not positioned in the normal way. Well guess what? Breech is normal. It's a variation of normal, not necessarily something to be worried about.
How did one generation suddenly agree to stop pushing and be prepped for surgery in the event that their baby was breech? Once upon a time... there was a scientific study that looked at the outcomes of vaginal breech births compared to C-section breech births, and concluded that surgery was safer. (That study was flawed and several years later the findings were reversed. Did you know that?) The next generation of doctors were never trained to handle breech births, and the doctors who were trained eventually retired, or their skills were unused and rusty.
Eventually even though the recommendation changed from "don't!" to "under certain circumstances we suggest you try" no doctors or hospitals would agree to assume the perceived risk. In other words, they stopped presenting women with a choice when their baby was presenting breech. And here we are today, left with someone else's fears standing in the way of women making a choice for themselves.
Are you in this position?
Research. Read. Search. Learn. Push. Educate. Find out who makes the "rules" and where they get their guidance from. If you have a breech baby, and you want a vaginal birth, then do not take "no" for the only answer. Keep searching. Keep learning. There is no moral absolute against birthing your baby in this position. "It's riskier." Maybe. Maybe not. C-sections have risks too. "The doctors aren't trained for breech." That's okay... My body will do all the work. "It's not legal for midwives to attend breech in this state." Well, don't use a midwife then. Someone in this situation is going to stand firm. Your baby may be the most stubborn out of everyone. But you have a choice to be more stubborn than the system and birth your baby you way.
Have I had a breech birth?
Almost. But no. The short answer is no. My daughter flipped all on her own and to say I was relieved is true. However it's also true that I'm a little bit wistful that I didn't get to have the experience of pushing her out bum or feet first. (Did you know that the term for a baby coming bottom first is "rumping" instead of crowning?)
I almost did. I was passionate, I researched, mentally I was prepared. Only waiting for true labor to begin... My baby had been breech as far as we could determine from 20 weeks onward. Then at the last minute, or more accurately, a few days past her due date (four days before her birth) she decided to flip while we were watching television.
Her daddy was praying that she would turn. (I was sort of excited about the breech birth thing at this point and didn't even think to pray that kind of prayer.) God must have had a little chat with baby on daddy's behalf because she obliged and stayed head down the rest of the time.
If I'm ever to have my own breech birth story in the future, I will gladly share the details. But until then, I'll just share what my breech pregnancy was like and how we determined that she was indeed breech.
1) Less urgency to pee!
This may not be every breech mama's experience, but I've found a few other women who can attest to this phenomenon. Apparently a bum resting on your bladder doesn't press as firmly. Throughout this pregnancy I never had the typical urgency to pee that I remembered from my first pregnancy.
2) Rib Pain
Ugh! Baby's head was always up under one rib. Baby's bum and legs do NOT feel the same under your ribcage. This is more like a large golf ball or a tennis ball trying to displace the bottom edge of your ribcage. I found when I sat on the couch I wanted to lean waaaaaaaaay back as if I could somehow lift my ribs off the knobby little head it was resting on.
These are interesting with breech babies. Not your hiccups. The baby's hiccups. The sensation appears in different places. With my head down firstborn I felt his down low, VERY low. My breech daughter, I felt them the most in my ribcage.
4) Carrying High
My belly shape was definitely a bit more square. I don't know how else to describe it.
5) "Floating" (not engaged)
I really liked to lay down on my back, put my knees up in the air, and feel with my fingers down around the edges of my pelvis bones to "feel" baby's engagement. With my firstborn son I could always feel his large, firm, round head nestled perfectly into the "bowl" of my pelvis. With my breech daughter I never felt a round head down there. It wasn't clear to me what I was feeling exactly, but not the firm roundness I was familiar with. Also, I could get my fingertips down under the edge of baby and "lift upward" and she would sort of float away from my pelvis. Bums don't "engage" the way a head does.
This was the kicker for me. The heartbeat was always found up high - at least at my belly button or above. When my daughter turned head down (ahhhh! at last!) I could only find the heartbeat down very very low by my pubic area. This was the most definite and reliable sign that she was still breech or head down. There was a HUGE difference in where the heartbeat could be heard.
Don't overthink this.
You don't need a stethoscope or a fetoscope if you have a willing partner or friend. My husband would put his ear on my belly and listen that way. After 28 weeks this was the easiest way to pinpoint her heart. <3 (We tried before 28 weeks, but it was not always easy or clear... with his ear, the stethoscope, or fetoscope.)
Have YOU had a breech baby? How did you know he/she was breech? Were any of these signs true for you, or were there any others you'd add to my list?
Leave a comment below!