6 Ways to Turn a Breech Baby

From At-Home Techniques to Alternative Therapies

Pregnant woman and baby with headphones
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A breech position means that your baby's head is positioned up away from your pelvis rather than toward it. It can happen in around three to four percent of pregnancies and, while concerning, shouldn't cause undue alarm.

There are a number techniques a mother can use to turn a breech baby prior to delivery. Some gently "compel" the baby into the correct position during the latter part of the pregnancy (from week 30 forward) while others are performed by the doctor or midwife at the time of delivery.

Techniques range from time-honored midwifery remedies and more contemporary medical interventions. Six of the more popular breech-turning techniques include: 

1. Performing the Breech Tilt Exercise

The breech tilt exercise is simply the routine lifting your hips above your heart, using gravity to turn the baby. Some women do this by stacking pillows under their hips as they lie flat on their backs on the floor. Others find it easier to prop one end of an ironing board on the couch in 30- to 40-degree angle They can then lie on the ironing board with their heads pointed in the direction of the floor.

You can do this exercise three times a day for 10 to 15 minutes each. Yoga practitioners may also be able to explore the supported bridge pose, which has a similar effect, in a third-trimester prenatal yoga class.

2. Using Cold to Turn the Baby

Placing something cold on your belly near the fundus is a technique that encourages a baby into the correct position.

Even in the womb, babies want to keep warm and snuggled, so any cold placed near them will cause them to react and move away. A bag of frozen peas works well for this technique. Do this as often as you feel comfortable, changing the placement as the baby starts to shift.

3. Playing Music at the Pubic Bone

There are certain stimuli that babies will react to even within the womb; one is music and the other is light.

By playing music or shining a flashlight near the pubic bone, the baby may gravitate toward the stimuli and right itself. Some mother will perform this technique gradually, starting at the side of the abdomen and moving toward the pelvis as the baby starts to shift.

4. Embracing Traditional Chinese Therapy

Moxibustion is a form of traditional Chinese medicine which involves the burning a dried plant bundle called the "moxa stick" to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi. This is not a home remedy but one that is performed by a trained practitioner. There are many Western midwives who believe in the practice, particularly since it does not cause pain or have any adverse side effects. Although not empirical, some small studies have suggested that it may be as effective as physically turning the baby.

5. Undergoing the Webster Technique 

The Webster Technique is a chiropractic technique in which the body is adjusted to relax any tension that may be holding the pelvis in a rigid, unaccommodating position. By releasing the tension, the baby may be more able to maneuver itself around without resistance. This should only be performed by a qualified chiropractor who has been trained in this specific technique.

6. Turning the Baby in Hospital

External cephalic version (ECV) is a procedure performed by a doctor or midwife at a hospital during labor. Medication is generally prescribed to help relax the uterus, while an ultrasound helps guide the practitioner physically turn the baby from the outside. The force it takes to do so can sometimes be uncomfortable or even painful. An epidural may be prescribed if the pain is especially unbearable.

A Word From Verywell

The choice of turning technique is a highly individual one but one that should be made with the complete input of your doctor. It is important that you understand the risks and benefits of whatever technique you choose and to have fall-back plan should a certain technique fail.

If a breech baby is unable to be turned, it may still be possible to deliver vaginally. More often than not, however, the doctor will recommend a cesarean, which generally offers a lower risk of complications and infant mortality.

Sources:

Catling, C.; Petrovska, K.; Watts, N.; et al. "Care during the decision-making phase for women who want a vaginal breech birth: Experiences from the field." Midwifery. 2016; 34: 111.

Cluver, C., Hofmeyr, G.; et al. “Interventions for helping to turn term breech babies to a headfirst presentation when using external cephalic version.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012; 1:CD000184.

Coyle, M.; Smith, C.; and Peat, B. "Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech presentation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012; 5:CD003928.

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