My first child was a stubborn and “lazy” baby, right from the start. He was always in a lying / horizontal position when scanning. It was good for the scanning because he was always facing the right directions to make the gynae / sonographer’s job easy. But as the pregnancy advanced, I had been waiting for him to start turning the right side down to get ready for labor. It is supposedly a natural process for babies to turn head down – due to effect of gravity, according to my gynae. However, even at week 29, he was still in his comfortable, horizontal position. It was surprising, because I have a tall and slim physique, and he was a tall baby. I’m not sure how he found the space to remain horizontal, but he seemed to find it more comfortable than being vertical where I imagine there will be more space with my slim but long torso.
At the 33 week checkup, gynae said he should have his head down for natural delivery. At that check up, he still insisted on remaining in a horizontal position. Ok, slightly diagonal, which I attribute to him needing more space as he grows. But to the gynae, it was still considered a transverse baby and only C-sect as an option. However, because there was a lot of amniotic fluid space all around the baby, the gynae was very hopeful that the baby could still turn in the next couple of weeks. We scheduled a closer checkup at week 35, so we could monitor his positioning. Dr Wong also recommended I do some exercises to promote his turning. Since I was already walking quite a bit (to no avail!), she suggested I do an “inversion” exercise in addition to walking. This involved me first getting on all fours on the bed. Then lowering my head and chest down to touch the bed, to create a maximum tilt for the baby to “sink” into the large space in my uterus. I was supposed to do this twice a day, a minute each time, before doing 30 minutes of walking. The idea was to get the baby into a large space, then walk to use gravity to pull his head down. Some online sources indicate a longer 15 minute inversion, but 30 minutes of walking was the maximum to avoid inducing early labor. The inversion part was really tough on my arms and neck, but for the sake of the baby (and myself), I did it daily. To be honest, I sometimes only did once a day.
By week 35, just before the checkup, I could still feel my baby in a transverse position. I told him if he doesn’t turn, he will get a scolding from the gynae! Miraculously, right during the gynae’s scan, he turned!! YES, HE TURNED!! But, he turned the wrong direction, and ended up vertical – with his head up and legs down. O.o I guess the “scolding” and “warnings” worked, but my baby has a sense of direction as poor as his mom’s. So he was no longer a transverse baby, but a breech baby. Still scheduled for C-sect. And the gynae noticed significantly less space left in the uterus for him to turn. Furthermore, instead of needing to turn 90 degrees, the baby needed to turn 180 degrees. So we made plans for a C-sect, which eventually happened at week 38+5.
Fast forward to 4 years later, I visited a traditional chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner. He frowned when I told him I had undergone C-sect (TWICE!). He then shared that his wife had gone into premature labor while his child was in breeched position. With his knowledge of TCM, he knew the acupoint to press to induce baby to turn (similar to moxibustion). As his wife lay on the hospital bed waiting to deliver his child, he massaged the outer corner of both her littlest toes. And they both talked to the baby, coaxing her to turn. Before the very eyes of the gynae who was scanning the baby regularly, they witnessed the baby turn from breech into a head-down position, and eventually was born naturally! I wish I had known about this acupoint 4 years ago. That would have saved me a lot of pain and money. Nonetheless, sharing the information here for anyone who might benefit from it. Below are other ways that are commonly used to turn breech babies
- Moxibustion / TCM Acupoint (as mentioned above)
- Yoga Doggy Style. If you’re flexible, stand with legs shoulder width apart, and touch the floor with your palms. Stay in this inverted position for 10-15 minutes, once to twice a day. If you’re not as flexible (like me!), get on all fours, then lower your elbow and chest to the ground. Hold this semi inverted position for 10-15 minutes, once to twice a day. For safety reasons, it is best to do this on a cushioned surface, such as a yoga mat or a bed. Do not do with a full stomach. The idea is to let the baby descend out of the pelvis to have more space to turn the right way down. Some sources say this helps in up to 75% of breech pregnancies.
- Walking. This is probably the simplest to do. Walk at least 30 minutes a day, and allow gravity to do the work – the baby’s head is supposed to be heavier, so getting off your butt and walking more is supposed to help the baby’s head turn downwards. Do be cautious not to over walk though, and do NOT do this if your doctor has indicated you should be walking less (for conditions such as low lying placenta). If you’re walking more than 30 minutes, remember to rest every 30 minutes. This usually works for earlier in pregnancy when there is still enough space in the uterus for the baby to turn.
- Swimming. This is the same concept as the first suggestion. While swimming (usually breast stroke, which is less intense), your body is held in a horizontal position that allows the baby to emerge from the pelvic bone area and thus have more space to turn. Again, do only under doctor’s permission, and do not over exercise.
- Massage. This is done by an experienced person who can feel the baby’s position, and will massage in a direction that will physically push the baby to turn. It can be quite painful, but has a higher ‘certainty’ of working, since you can actually feel the baby turning. It used to be more popular, until the massage resulted in a few babies dying as a result. That was probably due to the turning of the baby getting the baby entangled in the umbilical cord, and not being detected until it was too late. Because of these incidents, massaging to turn the baby has become much less common.
- Extreme Yoga. This is a variation of the Yoga Doggy Style mentioned above. Instead of going on all fours, the inversion is done on a elevated surface – with the legs on the elevated surface such as the bed, and the hands and head on the floor. This is to provide even greater incline to increase the success rate of turning the baby. It is, however, in my option, very unsafe to be in such a position, especially late in your pregnancy and sporting a big belly. You definitely do not want to fall in that position, much less fall on your belly. Weighing the risks and benefits, I would rather have a C-section for a breech baby than fall on my belly in this case.