“My baby is breech! Help!” If you’re not sure how to turn a breech baby, you’ve come to the right place.
We often see posts like this in our Facebook Community. Parents whose baby is breech are looking for advice on things they can do to get that baby head down.
Lucky for you, we are compiling our favorite ways of how to turn a breech baby right here for you to use if you ever find your baby in that position.
Factors that increase the likelihood of a breech baby are:
- Twins or multiples
- High levels of amniotic fluid
- The birthing person has an abnormally shaped uterus
But, there are a lot of other reasons why a baby can be breech and a lot of safe things you can do to flip that baby head down. So, let’s dive right into the methods, the research, and get your baby head down.
1. Breech Tilt
Spinning Babies is one of my favorite resources for encouraging babies to move into an optimal position. Their technique, the breech tilt, is a very effective way of getting a breech baby to turn head down.
With the breech tilt, you use gravity to encourage the baby to turn, while also stretching the pelvic ligaments.
You can do this by simply lying on the floor and raising your hips, feet flat on the floor, and legs bent. Or, my preferred way is to lay upside down on an ironing board that is propped on a couch like the image below.
Please note, getting on and off the ironing board will be difficult, so definitely have someone there to help.
Besides the risk of a headache, there are no other risks to this method. Do the breech tilt 2-3 times a day for 20 minutes each time, until baby is head down.
2. Forward Leaning Inversion
The forward-leaning inversion is another great Spinning Babies technique to not only help for a breech baby, but for babies in all positions to help create room in the lower part of the uterus.
This technique also uses gravity to encourage your baby to turn.
You can simply rest in the childs pose for 15-20 minutes and rock your hips side to side. Alternatively, you can do the full inversion, with your knees on the couch and elbows on the floor.
Please use assistance to make sure you are safe getting into and out of this position.
Do this once daily, through three deep breaths.
Disclaimer: You must read the full instructions here to make sure that you are doing the forward-leaning inversion correctly and safely.
Moxibustion is a type of Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
Instead of acupuncture needles, a practitioner uses a mugwort stick, which looks a bit like a cigar, to gently apply heat. Only one end of the stick burns, and the other end presses on a pressure point on the pregnant parents’ baby toe.
A meta-analysis of acupuncture and moxibustion show there are no adverse effects. Some excellent European studies also prove the efficacy of acupuncture on fetal positioning, as early as 32 weeks of pregnancy.
4. Chiropractics and prenatal massage
The Webster technique is all about correcting and preventing asymmetry in the pelvis and hips.
If you are already visiting a chiropractor during pregnancy, ask them to check for tighter or shorter ligaments. The Webster technique is specifically for pregnant parents to realign the pelvis and maximize space for fetal descent.
Chiropractic care, along with prenatal massage, can be a significant help in getting your baby into an optimal position. During pregnancy, the ligaments, the tendons, and even the muscles around the pelvic area can get stiff. With a good massage from a trained prenatal massage therapist, your body and mind can relax, making more room for your baby to turn.
5. Light, music, and temperature
Shining a flashlight on your lower belly can work wonders. By merely shining a flashlight on the lower pelvic area, you can see the magic happen.
At the beginning of the third trimester, babies can recognize light from the outside. By shining light on your lower abdomen, a baby might follow the light and try and move their head towards it.
There is no evidence to support this technique, but there is no harm in it either. Since it’s such a simple method — all you need is a flashlight — it’s worth a try.
Using heat and cold is another simple way to encourage your baby’s head to turn down. An ice pack or a frozen bag of vegetables works well for this technique.
Simply place a towel on your belly, close to the baby’s head, place the ice pack on top, and leave it there as long as you can. It is likely that the baby will feel the cold and may try to move away from it.
You likely know that a baby starts to respond to noise in the third trimester. Use that to your advantage. All you need to do is find some calming music and headphones, and place it near your pubic bone.
The baby can hear this music and might turn their head towards the sound, encouraging a head-down position.
Swimming may not be proven to turn a breech baby, but it can be very relaxing during pregnancy.
It can provide relief for achy joints and muscles late in pregnancy, and it doesn’t hurt the baby.
I have heard some success stories from parents doing somersaults in the pool. The turning of the mother’s body creates movement, possibly turning the baby, too.
7. Exercises and positions that open the pelvis
It’s also important to know that the easiest technique for turning a breech baby is extremely low-effort: just give it time. Most babies do turn on their own before their due date. In fact, your chances of having a breech baby decrease with each passing week. While about 30 percent of babies are breech at 30-32 weeks, only 3 percent are still breech at term (37 weeks)OB-GYN Ellen Giesbrecht, at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver
Different yoga positions, spending time upside down, and doing exercises that loosen the ligaments and connective tissues in the pelvic floor can help. Primarily, most techniques use movement and gravity to encourage the baby to move head down.
The Spinning Babies Three Sisters of Balance is a great resource to loosen those ligaments and create an optimal space for the baby.
The cool thing is, most babies will flip at night, while you’re sleeping, because of your side-lying position. Most moms won’t even recognize when the baby turns.
When you sleep, roll on your side with your belly resting on the bed. Make yourself comfortable by stuffing pillows under your legs and back. Sleeping like this will help the baby lift and move out of the pelvis so they can turn.
8. External cephalic version (ECV)
An External Cephalic Version, otherwise known as an ECV, is one way to manually turn your baby from breech to head down while still in the uterus.
Your health care provider will apply pressure to your stomach in an attempt to turn the baby from the outside. This is often done with an ultrasound machine and monitors on the baby to make sure no harm is being done.
Most pregnant women are a good candidate for an ECV. According to the American Academy of Family Pediatrics, contraindications for an ECV are:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Placenta Previa or Accreta
- A low levels of amniotic fluid
- An abnormal fetal heart
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Twins or other multiples gestation
A version is typically done in a hospital, at around 37 weeks. Before the procedure, the doctor will do an ultrasound to confirm the position. They also will monitor your baby’s heart rate to make sure it is normal.
Your provider may give you medicine to relax the muscles in your uterus. This can help decrease discomfort and increase the success of turning your baby.
During the procedure, your provider will place their hands on your stomach. After finding the baby’s head, they will gently try to turn the baby to the head first position.
After the procedure, your baby’s heart rate will continue to be monitored.
If the procedure is successful, your chance of having a head-down baby at delivery is good. However, the baby can turn back around to the breech position, so your provider may suggest induction once the baby is head down.
The chances of a successful ECV depend on these factors:
- How close you are to your due date
- How much amniotic fluid is around your baby
- How many pregnancies you have had
- How big your baby is
- Where the placenta is attached
- The unique position of your baby
If the ECV is not successful, your provider will talk to you about delivery options. Hopefully, they will discuss the pros and cons of having a vaginal delivery or a C- section. They may also suggest trying the version again another day.
The risks of an ECV are small, but include:
- Early-onset labor
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Some blood loss for either the baby or the mother
- Fetal distress
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to turn a baby from a breech position. Some babies that are breech can be delivered vaginally, and ACOG’s current guidelines support vaginal breech delivery. Still, usually, doctors prefer to deliver them by C-section.
If you suspect your baby is breech, here are some questions to ask your provider to find the safest mode of delivery for you:
- How can I tell if my baby is breech?
- Will you attempt an ECV? Why or why not?
- What are my options for delivery if the baby stays breech?
- Do you deliver breech babies? Under what circumstances?
- What are the risks and benefits of a vaginal breech birth?
How to Turn a Breech Baby: Ensuring a Successful Delivery
Having these discussions with your provider is very important as you work to make an informed decision about your birth. Learn as much as you can, trust your pregnancy intuition, and don’t be afraid to speak up for your needs if you are not being heard.
Check out our Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Course to get the training you need to get started.