I discovered Teddy was breech at a growth scan at 36 weeks- it was completely unexpected as I had three different midwives at three previous appointments all tell me that the baby was ‘definitely head down.’ One of those appointments was two days before the growth scan!
I opted for an ECV which was booked at 37 weeks. I then spent the next week and a half desperately doing anything to try and turn baby. This was probably the most stressful time of my whole pregnancy. I physically and mentally exhausted myself with all the Spinning Babies exercises, handstands in the pool, acupuncture with moxibustion and just generally being terrified to sit down and slouch just in case he had miraculously turned and I did something that made him go back into the breech position. Sadly, not only was I unable to turn baby via these methods, the ECV also failed. Teddy’s bum was too engaged in my pelvis and they could not even start the procedure as he would not budge! The consultant assumed I would be booking in for a c-section and was shocked when I explained that I was still considering a VBB. She went on to list all the reasons why this wasn’t a good idea, but I had already started to do some research at this point and found a number of her reasons contradictory to what I had been looking at. My main fear with considering a VBB was the level of skill of the midwives as I was aware that it wasn’t common practice and, despite training, many of the midwives may have never delivered a breech baby or attended a breech birth. I knew that if I could find someone who had experience, was on the same page as me and who I could trust, then I really felt that I could do it.
I was booked in the following week to discuss options and come to a decision on whether I was going to opt for the c- section or VBB. My husband, James, and I spent the weekend researching via podcasts, looking at the work of Shawn Walker and the Optibreech trial and watching videos of VBBs. I had also spoken to a couple of local doulas as was considering additional support in this form if I was unable to find a midwife who was able to support me. One of the things I did struggle to find was a wealth of positive VBB stories, which is one of the main reasons I am writing this as I was desperate for any real life examples which could reassure me and make me feel like it was possible and that I was making the right decision.
We both felt pretty well informed by the time we met with the consultant on Monday- which made it all the more shocking when everything we were being told about the VBB contradicted all of the research we had done. For example, I was under the impression that the “hands off the breech” approach was best and that the best way to approach labour would to be in upright, forward and open positions and to even give birth on all fours. Yet, in my meeting, I was told that I would need an epidural at 5cm and would need to be on my back with legs in stirrups. When we questioned this, the consultant claimed that I would be in too much pain and by the time I am in the transitional phase, I wouldn’t be aware of what is going on and they would struggle to help me as I would be experiencing so much pain. I was determined to not have an epidural as I knew how important it would be to know when to push. Obviously, having not given birth before, I had no idea how painful it might be- but I also had confidence in myself that I couldn’t imagine myself reacting in the way the consultant described.
In my quest to turn baby, a number of people had mentioned a Kettering Community Midwife, Keeley. They said she had experience of delivering babies via VBB. I was given her contact details via an independent midwife and she was kind enough to meet with me. The experience of meeting and discussing a VBB with Keeley was so vastly different to my experience in the hospital with consultants, etc. She had been trained by Shawn Walker and her view of a positive VBB was exactly on the same page as mine. She made me feel like I could do it and I felt really supported by her. She gave me her number so that, if and when I went into labour, I could phone her and she would be there for me. She also informed me of another midwife who was also experienced and could support if, for any reason, Keeley couldn’t be there with me. I was so glad that I was able to make that contact with Keeley, as it was the final thing I needed to truly have the confidence to go ahead with the VBB.
My labour started early Saturday morning. I contacted Keeley when I started experiencing contractions every 5 minutes and by 2am Sunday morning, I had arrived at the hospital and was 4cm dilated. I was advised to keep active and they would look to move me into a private room in the next hour or so. I walked up and down the corridors and used my birthing ball until I was ready to go into a private room. In the private room, I almost instantly started feeling the contractions ramp up in intensity and frequency. We had gotten the room ready with battery operated tea light candles, our birth playlist playing, lavender scented room spray and alongside using hypnobirthing techniques (breathing, visualisation, etc), I also had a wave comb. When I was 8cm dilated, I started to have the urge to push but was worried that baby’s head would get stuck if I wasn’t fully dilated. Until this point, I had been following what my body was telling me to do and, in a panic, I started trying to hold in the urge and fight against the contractions. This distracted me from my breathing and was when the contractions were at their most painful. Keeley must have noticed that something had changed and I explained to her why I was holding back. She confirmed that I was ok to push and that was a massive relief.
As soon as I got onto the bed, into an all fours position, and started pushing, I felt much better. The pushing stage did not feel long at all and apparently Keeley and Melissa (the additional midwife who came in to support) chased the consultants away as they were confident that everything was going smoothly. Very soon, Teddy’s bottom was making an appearance and I was able to push more of his body out with each contraction. His left arm did get slightly stuck, Keeley unhooked it, and as soon as his face and nose were out, he started crying, which was such as a relief, as I had read that sometimes breech babies can take a little while to respond after birth. All that was left, was the top of Teddy’s head (from his eyes upwards) and this was where my contractions seemed to stop. I knew that I only had so much time to get the rest of his head out, so I did start to panic a little at this point. However, with a bit of coaching to push from the midwives and my husband, and some support with positioning from Keeley, Teddy made his full appearance into the world- six and a half hours after I had arrived at the hospital. James and I found out the gender together. It was such a magical moment. And, if anyone had told me that I would be giving birth to a breech baby on no pain relief, I would have not believed them. I felt invincible and so happy that I had stuck to my gut instinct about Teddy’s birth.
I am really grateful to have had the support of my husband and Keeley throughout the labour. It made me feel secure and confident to know that I had people who understood and supported what I wanted alongside me throughout the experience. I also feel proud that I was able to prove that a VBB is possible and is safe- just a variation of normal! I really hope that my story can inspire some confidence and reassurance in others whatever decision they make with a breech baby. I am aware that a VBB may not suit everyone, but after my experience, I believe that it is so empowering to be informed and to feel that you actually have a choice without being pressured or coerced down a route which may not be right for you or your baby. I also find it concerning how midwives are becoming more and more deskilled when it comes to VBB as it means more people are put off the VBB route due to lack of confidence. I hope my story can somewhat normalise a breech birth and show that it isn’t scary or massively riskier than any other type of birth- and that it can in fact be an equally wonderful and positive experience.
Listed below are a few of the links that I used to help inform my decision- thought they might be helpful for anyone who is interested/ going through a similar experience as I know they really helped me:
- UK national RCOG breech guidelines
- UK national RCOG ECV guidelines
- Breech Birth UK Facebook group