Sunday, November 25, 2007


Thismorning I witnessed the birth of a healthy baby girl. A few hours later I returned home, leaving mother and baby resting quietly in bed. Baby had suckled strongly, and was now asleep. Mother had not slept much last night, and was happy to enjoy the sweetness of her new baby daughter. I will visit them tomorrow, and a few more times in the coming week, and check that all's well.

A couple of weeks ago this mother, who I will refer to as Lisa (not her real name) was facing the difficult choice of either elective caesarean, or vaginal breech birth against medical advice. Lisa had told me she thought her baby was presenting breech, and after palpating her belly I agreed. After visiting the hospital the presentation was confirmed, and Lisa was told that she would no longer be eligible for the Birth Centre, and would be scheduled for caesarean birth.

Lisa immediately visited her traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, who used acupuncture and moxibustion, to no avail. This process was repeated as the days passed.

I spoke to an obstetrician who is expert in external cephalic version. I outlined the situation that Lisa is a mother who has previously given birth, and is now at Term; she and her baby are healthy; the breech is mobile above the pelvic inlet, and there is plenty of amniotic fluid. The obstetrician confirmed my assessment, that external cephalic version should be attempted, and was likely to succeed. He gave me the name of the doctor who he knew would be able to turn the baby at the hospital where Lisa was booked. He knows that I am a homebirth midwife, and I commented that Lisa would consider breech vaginal birth at home, and his response was quick "so that's all the more reason why this baby should be turned!" I agreed.

Lisa went to the hospital and the midwife spoke on the phone to the doctor about arranging external cephalic version (ECV). The doctor said it was too late in the pregnancy. She usually does ECVs on Tuesdays, and next Tuesday she would not be at the hospital. I encouraged Lisa to persevere - I felt that the doctor needed to palpate Lisa's abdomen, and feel how ready this baby was to be turned.

After several visits to the hospital for monitoring, and a considerable degree of persistence, Lisa was seen in person by the doctor. The doctor agreed that a turn should be attempted, and told Lisa she could do it that day. The version took only moments, and was successful.

Attempting ECV for a breech at or near Term is a reasonable option in protecting normal birth.

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