How to Safely Turn a Breech Baby

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There are lots of ways to turn a breech baby. Some require nothing more than holding certain positions with your body and others require assistance from a doctor or midwife. About 3% to 4% of babies are breech, including frank breech, near the end of pregnancy. Many of the personal turning techniques can be started around week 30, or even sooner, while others are done closer to labor.

Frozen Peas

Before you start laughing and wondering how frozen peas can help turn a baby, it's simple—it's cold. Babies, like the rest of us, prefer comfort. So using frozen peas placed at the top of your belly near the fundus can encourage your baby to turn away from the cold.

Some mothers say that this works really well while laying in a warm bath, others use a warm pack like a rice sock on the lower part of their abdomen. This can be used as often as you like because it's not medical in any way.

Music

Playing music towards your pubic bone is another method employed safely at home. You can get headphones and simply play the music loud enough that you can hear it towards your pubic bone so that the baby will want to come towards the sound.

Some mothers say that they actually start by trying to get the baby to move slightly and begin playing the music to the side of their abdomen, then moving more downwards towards the pubic bone.

Breech Tilt

The breech tilt is an exercise that you can do at home. You want to put your pelvis above your head. The easiest way to do this is to lay an ironing board on the couch (still closed). You lay with your head towards the floor, allowing your feet to be up.

While this isn't a medical treatment, it can make you dizzy and should only be done for a few minutes at a time. If you're feeling light-headed, talk to your doctor or midwife before attempting it again. Some women do a slight variation in bed with a pile of pillows under their buttocks.

Positioning

Sometimes all your baby needs is a bit of encouragement to flip head down. Finding positions that give your baby room can be very simple. Good positions to try include hands and knees, kneeling leaning forward, and lunging.

Acupuncture

Using disposable needles, a practitioner will insert them just into the skin to release qi, prevent it from being blocked or help it move. This release of energy is said to help the baby find a better position by allowing the mom's body to move freely and the baby to have the room he/she needs to be well placed in the uterus for birth.

Chiropractic Care: The Webster Technique

The Webster Technique is used to help the pelvis open and the ligaments soften, allowing the baby enough room to assume a good position in the pelvis. A chiropractor should be trained in this technique. Also, be sure to ask how often they've used it. This is not usually a one-time technique, though it can be.

External Cephalic Version

A medical attempt to turn a breech baby is known as an external cephalic version (ECV). This simply means that your doctor uses their hands on the outside of your abdomen to encourage your baby to get into a head-down or vertex position.

This procedure should be done in a hospital setting, because it does have risks, including placental abruption and umbilical cord prolapse. Ultrasound monitors the baby and the location of the placenta before, during, and after the procedure. Some practitioners prefer to use this with a uterine relaxant like terbutaline (Brethine) and some also use epidural anesthesia because of the pain involved to mom.

Most mothers who have had ECV report that they would much rather have the version than a cesarean section, even with the pain involved. This is typically attempted once or twice, after 37 weeks of gestation.

Other Options

While they're not backed up by conclusive scientific evidence, there are other methods to use to try to turn a breech baby. These options are primarily anecdotal or theoretical in nature.

Light

Like music, using light is designed to encourage the little one to follow the source. Using a flashlight, simply point it at your lower uterus and allow the baby to move in that direction. This can also be used in conjunction with the cold trick above.

Swimming

Swimming is one of those things that feels really good at the end of pregnancy. The breaststroke and crawl may be beneficial in getting the baby to turn head down. The theory is that being in water allows the muscles to relax, giving the baby more room to move.

Moxibustion

Some studies have found that receiving moxibustion treatment (often in conjunction with acupuncture) makes it more likely that your baby will turn. This form of traditional Chinese medicine involves burning a moxa (mugwort) stick near a certain point on the small toe of the foot (bladder 67).

More research is needed to confirm the efficacy and effective treatment protocols. You can find practitioners in a variety of settings including acupuncture clinics and other practitioners.

Be sure to consult your doctor before trying any methods to turn your baby to be sure your efforts are safe for you and your baby. Additionally, your doctor can recommend which options they believe will be most effective in your case.

A Word From Verywell

While many babies will turn, the truth is that not all of them will. Despite the best efforts of a mother and her practitioner, some babies will remain breech until delivery.

Breech babies are about 3% or 4% of all babies at term. Some babies are also stubborn and don't turn until labor has begun. Your practitioner may be skilled at vaginal breech birth or refer you to someone who is, if you are a good candidate, while others may suggest a cesarean birth if your baby does not turn.

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Article Sources
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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If your baby is breech. January 2019.

  2. UT Southwestern Medical Center. Can you turn a breech baby around?. December 2015.

  3. American Academy of Family Physicians. Breech babies: What can I do if my baby is breech?. Updated March 2018.

  4. US National Library of Medicine. Breech birth. Updated September 2018.

  5. Baxi L. External cephalic version: ACOG Practice Bulletin Number 221. Obstet Gynecol. 2020;136(3):634-634. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000004076

  6. Pai M, Kushtagi P, Chakravarti S. Manual Obstetrics (Fourth Edition). Elsevier India, 2015.

  7. Miranda-Garcia M, Domingo Gómez C, Molinet-Coll C, et al. Effectiveness and safety of acupuncture and moxibustion in pregnant women with noncephalic presentation: an overview of systematic reviewsEvid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019;2019:7036914. doi:10.1155/2019/7036914

Additional Reading
  • Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Breech delivery. In: Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. McGraw-Hill Education; 2014.

  • Hofmeyr GJ, Kulier R, West HM. External cephalic version for breech presentation at term. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;4: CD000083. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000083.pub3