The ideal position for a baby to be in for birth is head down, facing your spine and with its back against your stomach. This position lines your baby up for the easiest path through your pelvis. Babies who are positioned with their feet down, lying sideways or even facing your stomach face an increased risk of complications during birth. They have a harder time fitting through your pelvis, which can lead to a more painful labor and possible cesarean section. If your baby is in a non-optimal birth position, attempting to turn your baby head down can increase your odds of a successful birth experience.
Have your doctor or midwife gently manipulate your stomach -- a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV) -- after 36 weeks to encourage a baby to "somersault" into the head down position. Relax your stomach muscles during the procedure with medication or deliberate effort. Repeat the ECV a second time if the first attempt doesn't work. (See References 3)
Use a forward-leaning inversion to help a baby move into the correct head-down position. Elevate your knees and hips 12 to 20 inches above your head in a safe position you can easily get up from without falling. For instance, kneel at the top of the stairs and hold yourself up with your arms, a couple of steps down. Have someone hold your shoulders firmly to support you. Hold the position for one to two minutes to stretch your cervical ligaments. Repeat two times if your abdominal muscles are loose -- you can easily identify your baby's limbs and head by pressing on your abdomen. Repeat one or two times a day for several days if your abdominal muscles are tight -- you can't identify your baby's limbs and head through your skin.
Attempt the Alexander Technique to turn a baby head down starting at 36 weeks or later. Kneel on your hands and knees on a carpeted surface, keeping your hands straight under your shoulders and your knees straight under your hips. Begin to crawl very slowly, carefully pulling one leg so it still slightly touches the floor. Move in a comfortable rhythm, breathe deeply and pause between steps. Imagine you are being slowly pulled forward by a single hair. Stop after 10 minutes and lean forward in the knee-to-chest position. Lay your head and forearms on the floor, place your hands flat beside your head and keep your elbows in a straight line with your shoulders. Relax for a few minutes before getting up. Repeat the technique two to three times a day until your baby turns.
Tips & Warnings
- Don't worry about your baby's position until 34 weeks in a first pregnancy or 37 to 38 weeks if you have already had a baby. While 20 percent of babies are breech -- with their feet or bottoms down -- at 30 weeks, only 4 percent remain breech when labor begins, according to childbirth educator, Ilana Machover. Many babies will turn on their own without any help before delivery.
- Always check with your doctor or midwife before attempting to turn your baby on your own to make sure there is no medical reason why the method would be unsafe for you.
- About .5 percent of the time, ECV causes complications, such as bleeding from the placenta, that result in the need for an emergency cesarean section. For this reason, the procedure should only be attempted in a location where the doctor can immediately perform a cesarean section if the baby develops a problem.
- Home Birth Reference Site; Get Your Baby Lined Up! Optimum Foetal Positioning; Angela Horn; May 2010
- SpinningBabies.com; Tranverse Lie, or Baby Lying Sideways; Gail Tully
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Turning a Breech Baby in the Womb (External Cephalic Version); January 2008
- SpinningBabies.com; Inversion; Gail Tully
- Virgin Media; Turn Baby, Turn!; Ilana Machover; 1995
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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