by Melissa Diaz, DC
You have just returned from your appointment with your obstetrician or midwife and have been told that your baby is in a breech position. What does this mean? By eight months, most babies turn heads down on their own to ready themselves for the upcoming birth. A breech presentation means that the baby has not turned to a cephalic (head down) position, but is instead in a buttocks or feet down position.
In current obstetrical practice, delivering a breech baby is considered risky for both mother and child, and the preferred method of delivery is a cesarean section (c-section). C-sections are not without their own risk, and like with any other major surgery they should not be taken lightly. Babies that are in a breech presentation by 37 weeks are often scheduled to be delivered via c-section, and are monitored until their due date in case the baby turns on its own. This is a crucial time to ensure that the mother’s body alignment and posture are in optimal condition.
After approximately 8 months of pregnancy, the womb becomes tight quarters for a rapidly growing baby. Correcting any misalignments in the mother’s spine and pelvis through specific chiropractic adjustments can aid tremendously in fostering a favorable environment for the baby to turn on his own naturally. In addition to chiropractic care, it is important to make changes in the mother’s posture and biomechanics, not only to help with the process of helping the baby turn, but to make the last few weeks of pregnancy a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The following are some simple postural corrections and changes that are appropriate throughout the duration of the pregnancy, but become more important when the baby is in a breech position in late pregnancy:
- Avoid slouching while sitting. This causes the low back to flex excessively, promoting low back pain as well as pelvic and lumbar misalignments. Sit straight, preferably with a chair that provides low back support. This becomes especially important when the mother spends long periods of time sitting down at work or in her car. A rolled up towel or small pillow often provides sufficient low back support if the chair is not optimal.
- Try not to cross your legs while sitting. Many women cross their legs out of habit, and most often favor exclusively one side while doing so. This causes a change in the positioning of the pelvis, causing the weight to shift to one side and for the hips to be shifted unevenly for extended periods of time. It is a habit worth avoiding at this time.
- Standing for long periods of time while shifting all the weight to one side is also unfavorable for pelvic alignment, and should also be avoided. Try switching sides at regular intervals to promote even weight distribution and avoid muscle fatigue. The same concept applies to carrying purses, diaper bags, and young children.
- Walk daily. This low impact exercise promotes favorable movement in both mother and child.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs. It allows for the hips to remain in a slightly open position which is favorable for alignment. This position also allows for the muscles in the lower back to relax and helps reduce overall tension in your lower body.
There are also useful stretches and positions that can help a breech baby turn:
- Let gravity help! Forward leaning inversions allow for additional room in the bottom of the uterus, often giving the baby enough room to spin. Kneel at the edge of an elevated surface (couch, bed, ect.) and carefully position your arms on the floor until you can lean fully on your forearms. Do not put any pressure on your head or neck. This position should be done daily, for no longer than 30 seconds at a time. Use assistance for getting up and down if necessary and do not twist or turn in order to get in and out of this position. Stop immediately if you become dizzy, lightheaded, or experience any pain. Women with high blood pressure or other complications should avoid this position.
- Hip Circles can help promote flexibility in the hips and provide movement where it is needed the most. Sit on a large exercise ball with your legs spread for stability. Circle your hips clockwise and then counterclockwise for 10 repetitions each. You can also do figure 8’s to provide additional movement. Try to isolate the rotations to the hips for the most effective movement.
- The Cat/Cow yoga stretch is a good exercise to do throughout pregnancy, and can become increasingly useful when attempting to help a baby turn. Begin this movement on your hands and knees, with the arms placed underneath the shoulders and a straight back. Inhale deeply while arching the back, allowing for the abdomen to lower down. Exhale slowly while rounding the back and tilting the pelvis forward. Return to a neutral flat back position in between breaths. Repeat 6-10 times. This exercise should be done daily.
Please remember that there are situations in which a breech baby is unable to turn on its own. This is a natural variation in labor. Low levels of amniotic fluid, an irregularly shaped uterus, and a short umbilical cord are some of the many reasons why a baby may not be able to turn. The best course of action is to think positively, do your postural corrections and exercises, get adjusted, and follow your midwife or obstetrician’s advice.