By three or four weeks prior to your due date, most babies will naturally flip and turn head down into the birth canal, primed for delivery. But about 3 to 4 percent of babies don't, instead facing feet or buttocks first—aka breech.
Babies "go breech" for lots of reasons: The shape of your uterus, the amount of amniotic fluid in your womb, the position of the placenta, and sometimes due to tumors like fibroids. And while a planned C-section is the most common solution for a breech baby, there are alternatives.
External Cephalic Version
Donna Hahn, a mom of two from Mission Viejo, California, was 36 weeks into her high-risk pregnancy when her healthcare provider discovered that her unborn son was breech. She spent several weeks doing exercises in an attempt to get him to turn on his own, but when he didn't, her doctor suggested the external cephalic version, a procedure that lifts and turns your baby head down from the outside.
After three miscarriages, Hahn was determined to attempt a vaginal birth. "I really wanted that experience, instead of a C-section," she says. "I didn't really know what to expect, but I had 100 percent trust in my OB-GYN and knew she would only recommend what was best for me."
The experience included being hooked up to "more monitors than you can imagine" and being prepared for the fact that the procedure could trigger spontaneous labor or an emergency C-section.
"It was excruciating—more painful than labor because they can't give you any drugs, but the procedure only lasted maybe 10 minutes," Hahn remembers. "At one point when they were doing the version, I looked down at my stomach and it was completely flat. It looked like I wasn't pregnant!"
Despite the discomfort and the risk, Hahn says she would do the whole thing again, because she was able to achieve her goal—a headfirst vaginal birth.
The Webster Technique
Dr. Larry Webster, founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, discovered that the technique that carries his name is a safe way to help baby turn head down by manipulating the sacrum.
Christina McMenemy was 34 weeks pregnant with her second daughter, Mira, when an ultrasound showed that the baby was breech. After one C-section already, McMenemy wanted to try for a vaginal birth.
"I read up on the Webster Technique and how a chiropractor trained in this method could help a baby turn around," says the Columbus, Ohio, mom. "I found one 30 minutes away and saw her three times a week for two weeks."
After the sessions, which included applying pressure-point techniques to loosen the ligaments in the pelvic floor, McMenemy followed up with exercises at home.
"At night I spent 15 to 20 minutes with my butt on the couch letting the blood rush to my head with a bag of frozen peas on my belly," she says. "Mira would immediately start moving and twisting. She was always active after the chiropractor visits, too."
McMenemy's baby flipped, and five weeks later she had a successful VBAC.