My pregnancy was low risk, straightforward and with the usual pregnancy symptoms. I was active until the end of pregnancy by walking our dog every day.
We found out our baby was breech on a scan at 35 weeks. I tried everything to turn her – spinning babies, inversions, moxibustion, chiropractor, lots of walking and gardening (being on all fours). After a position scan at 37+2 confirming she was a flexed breech we agreed to the ECV to try to turn her at 37+4. The ECV was unsuccessful as baby was well and truly wedged in my ribs. She coped really well with the ECV (whereas I found it quite stressful and uncomfortable). It did, however, make me feel at peace with the fact that my baby was breech and I don’t think I could have done anything else to turn her! I finally started enjoying my very low down kicks instead of stressing about her position.
We initially agreed to an elective caesarean at 39 weeks as the only realistic option presented by the obstetric team that day. However, on leaving the hospital I was devastated. I felt she was not ready and surgery seemed a huge reaction to a healthy baby and mother when the only issue was her position. The next morning I called my community midwives who were incredible supportive and directed me towards AIMS and referred me back to the consultant midwife at my hospital to discuss other options.
After doing 2 days of research into vaginal breech births I was really confident I wanted to try. I cancelled my elective caesarean and came up with birth preferences with the consultant midwife. It was highlighted to me that my birth would likely be influenced by the skills and experience of those on duty.
With my plan in place and me feeling much more confident we enjoyed our last week before she arrived! I did lots of batch cooking, swimming, walking the dog and just really trying to enjoy ourselves.
The day before I went into labour we had spent a stunning day at the seaside; walking, enjoying the sunshine and fish & chips on the beach. I went to bed that evening feeling completely normal.
Contractions started really mildly at 4am. They woke me up and felt very different to Braxton Hicks, I took paracetamol and tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t. I ended up downstairs on my birth ball. The contractions became regular very quickly but then slowed and got more intense. My partner took our dog out for a walk at 9am and my contractions basically stopped and only restarted when he got back. I also felt very nauseous at this point. We attended my community midwife appointment at 11am. Contractions continued throughout the appointment (and the 30 minutes spent stood in the car park because of the fire alarm). I came home, had lunch and bounced on a ball for the afternoon. Contractions continued at variable intervals, intensities and lengths. Nausea and indigestion were pretty unpleasant as well – I was having my bowels open many times for the clear out! I managed to breathe through contractions and could talk and walk through most of them. The worst discomfort was when I stood still outside and felt it in my bum and hips.
By about 5pm I wanted a change of scenery so got in the bath. This shortened my contractions but increased the frequency. According to the Freya app I wasn’t ever in established labour but I called the hospital just in case. I wanted a plan for the evening and I thought there was no point in heading in. However, because baby was breech and we’d be delivering on the labour unit they wanted me straight in for assessment.
This was the least pleasant part of my birth story. We arrived in the hospital at 8:30pm and started the CTG monitoring. Sitting in a chair whilst labouring and not knowing whether we’d come or go was so stressful and uncomfortable. We tried to joke around and keep positive but more than anything I just wanted to go home. When I was allowed to stand I breathed and danced through the surges. Eventually, I had a VE and was happy to hear I was 4cm although the midwife could only feel her feet. Immediately afterwards my waters broke. There was light meconium staining but this is normal for a breech.
We were taken around to the labour unit at around 10pm. Once on the labour unit I wanted to settle in. We’d agreed to wireless monitoring but it was very problematic and intermittent. My partner went back to the car and got my bag, put music on and we had dim lighting.
The specialist registrar came in and discussed our footling presentation. I requested a ultrasound and ‘thorough’ VE in order to confirm the presentation had switched from flexed to footling. It was confirmed I was now 7cm and baby’s feet were definitely below her bum. They explained the biggest risk was cord prolapse and that a footling presentation is a contraindication to vaginal birth under RCOG guidelines. We asked questions about the likelihood of an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic and risk to baby of cord prolapse. We requested a few minutes to discuss our options and came to the conclusion that with the risks of a vaginal birth combined with the confidence of the medical team in delivering a footling breech vaginally our best option at that time was an immediate caesarean. One downside was that no one read my birth preferences or offered me any pain relief. I wanted to use my TENS and gas & air but didn’t get to try either. On reflection, for the medical team caring for us it was more of an emergency than I was aware of. Also, at no point were my contractions indicative of established labour. They were powerful but only every 5 minutes or so despite my labour progressing very rapidly. I’d gone from 4-7cm in a hour with moving units, never having time to ‘settle in’, constantly having the monitoring adjusted, an ultrasound and vaginal exam.
I felt very confident in myself and my baby to deliver safely but did not have the same confidence in those looking after me. On reflection, with the attitude and staff confidence levels in delivering breech babies I would make the same decision again in the same scenario. However, I might have made a different decision somewhere else with a different attitude to vaginal breech birth.
After agreeing to the caesarean, less than 10 minutes later we were in theatre. Despite my birth preferences not being followed again we just tried to keep calm and get through it. I was shaking terribly due to the fact I was still having contractions and in a very cold operating theatre. The anaesthetist and assistant were the kindest, friendliest people though and really tried everything to make it positive for us. I had to have the spinal on my side as I was still contracting and they did not want labour to progress any further than it had. The anaesthetist was incredible and managed to do an effective spinal despite me not being about to stop shaking uncontrollably. The shaking was also worsened by having the spinal and is a common side effect. Although it wasn’t what I ‘wanted’ the staff were so professional, supportive and explained what they were doing. Her birth was very rapid and she arrived on her due date at 11:55pm. However, she was straight off to the paediatric doctor and it took a couple of minutes for her to cry but she then bawled loudly and for a long time. The anaesthetist was keeping us updated but I couldn’t stop crying and was just desperate to have her in my arms. The staff had placed the ECG monitoring and gown so that I could have skin to skin as soon as possible. Very quickly she was passed to me and they finished off the section with her on my chest and my partner by my side. I was still shaking but so relieved and happy to be talking to and holding my baby.
We were wheeled back to the labour unit for recovery where she latched on with a bit of help from the midwives. After an hour I was allowed to eat and savoured the NHS standard of tea and toast whilst my partner had skin to skin.
At 3am my baby and I were taken to the ward for recovery where we were both monitored and were absolutely fine. We stayed in the hospital for nearly 2 days but I was keen and ready to leave after the first! Although we had an emergency caesarean in my mind it was a speedy caesarean to prevent risks. Recovery has been straightforward and we are settling at home well.
I feel my story was very positive because I was informed and empowered throughout my pregnancy and labour. Although it was not the perfect birth I had initially envisaged I always felt in control. I knew that a caesarean was a likely outcome for a vaginal breech birth as a first time mother so we had prepared ourselves for it. I felt incredibly powerful as I had managed to get so far using breathing and could ask questions and make rational, informed decisions. My baby chose when she wanted to arrive and I feel I made the right decision at the right time for us both.