While being told your baby is breech bottom down instead of head first is worrying, remember, babies move around a lot, so yours may turn as your due date nears. However, around 3% of babies are still breech at 37 weeks.
Here, we answer some common questions:
Q Why are some babies breech?
A Most breech babies settle in this position purely by chance, says independent midwife Mary Cronk. However, a very small number are breech for a medical reason such as placenta praevia (where the placenta is lying low), fibroids, an oddly-shaped womb or, rarely, theres a problem that could probably be identified by an ultrasound scan.
Q Is there anything I can do to help my baby to turn?
A You could ask your midwife to show you some exercises that may help, although Mary says these dont have a high success rate. She recommends taking a warm bath, then kneeling on all fours, with your head down for as long as you can before going to bed sometimes a baby turns while youre very relaxed.
Q Do alternative therapies help?
A Many of the ideas that get passed around do no harm, but dont achieve much either. However, a Chinese acupuncture technique called moxibustion is thought to have a good success rate. This involves a stick of moxa (compressed herbs) being used to stimulate acupuncture points the non-contact end is lit, and the heat radiates down. Its most successful between 32 and 36 weeks, but can work right up to delivery. If youd like to try it, the British Acupuncture Council (acupuncture.org.uk) can provide details of local practitioners.
Q My doctor says he can try to turn the baby. How?
A This is a procedure called external cephalic version (ECV). Using ultrasound and a heart monitor to check on your baby, your doctor will put his hand on your tummy and try to manoeuvre the baby by hand. Its usually offered in hospital at 37 weeks and works on around half of babies. It isnt dangerous but, rarely, your baby may get distressed, and about one in 200 women needs an emergency Caesarean. However, you can refuse an ECV and hope your baby turns.
Q If my baby doesnt turn, will I need a Caesarean?
A Not necessarily. Many women do, but if your midwife is confident she can deliver your baby safely, you can have a vaginal delivery instead. But it may be hard to find a midwife with experience in delivering breech babies naturally. If youre not sure whats best, speak to your midwife, who can advise you.
Q What will happen if I decide to try a vaginal birth?
A Tell the hospital in advance that youll need a midwife whos experienced in breech births, says Mary. Theyll need to check your pelvis is normal and that your baby is an average size and not looking up, which means the head is in a position that could make the delivery harder still.