What About Breech?
What if baby comes butt first? Eeek!
When I was in first grade, my teacher was pregnant. Day by day, month by month, her belly grew. I marveled at how big she got! I marveled that there was a baby growing inside of her! I grew up on a farm and pregnancy and birth was not new to me. However, I can't recall noticing a HUMAN growing a baby before I witnessed her. I remember being so excited with the knowledge that one day soon, she wouldn't be at school, she will have given birth!
My mother was friends with my teacher. She was a dutiful wife and mother who attended PTA meetings, bake sales and was in the classroom regularly volunteering. One morning I overheard my mother tell my friend's mom that my teacher had given birth. I was so excited! Until my mom said, "Did you hear what happened?" "The baby was breech." I had no idea what that meant but I will never forget the looks that passed between my mom and her friend. Both of their eyes got wide and they looked afraid, stricken and like something was very, very wrong. I asked what that meant and they told me. I never understood why it was a big deal, but obviously it was. Over the years, as my father "midwifed" many cows through labor, occasionally he would say that one was breech and mom and dad would pass that same look one to another. The dreaded breech! This is what my worldview on breech babies was based upon!
Fast forward to 2003 when I was due to give birth to my third child. I went to the doctor for my weekly visit (I didn't know about home birth midwives then!) and the doctor announced that the baby was breech and we should go ahead and schedule a c-section. He was very matter of fact, insinuating that this was really no big deal, routine, happens every day. NOT TO ME!!!! I didn't know much about birth and babies at that point but I did know that I was not going to be cut. I knew that if no one would support me through a vaginal breech birth, I was going to make the baby turn and that was just the way it was. Thankfully, baby did turn and was born at about 38.5 weeks. A very quick, 2 hour labor with an 8 lb 4 oz boy! They told me that at 38 weeks it was impossible for baby to turn and I was wasting my time. I'm glad I'm so stubborn.
Looking back and knowing what I know now, I know that many of the things told to me about breech birth are wrong. They can be born vaginally! They can be born safely and through an empowered birth! There are certain risks involved in breech birth but that there ARE things you can do to greatly reduce those risks!
Giving birth in a peaceful environment where the birthing person feels safe and surrounded by love is a good first step. Giving birth without pain medication is also important in reducing risk. It is essential that the person giving birth is able to move freely and ideally be in an upright or hands and knees position to help the baby through the birth canal and that her process isn't interrupted by unwanted noise/intervention.
It can be very difficult to find a midwife or doctor who is supportive of vaginal breech birth. Hospital based providers see very little vaginal breech birth and receive little training in the matter. Home birth midwives are typically the most prepared for the event but many states are now outlawing breech birth at home. Maryland is one of the states that has outlawed this for Certified Professional Midwives. Ideally, families would have access to competent care regardless of baby's position, but sadly this is not always the case.
What can you do? Start the conversation. Ask your OBs, your midwives and your hospitals about vaginal breech birth. The more families who are asking for support, the sooner the concerns will be heard. This month on our Facebook page, we're focusing on breech birth. We will dispel some of the myths you heard and offer some education to the community. Please follow us there if you don't already. You might also get involved in state legislation supporting breech births at home. A person's body should not be subjected to surgery because the care provider is not educated.
BREECH IS A VARIATION OF NORMAL! It's time that it's treated as such.