Sunday, November 04, 2012


When I think about breech births the pictures that come to mind are women who I have attended for breech vaginal births, as well as a few other stories that have been preserved in my memory.

There's Sally, who gave birth unassisted to her 'feet first' baby one night in an ambulance.  I had palpated her abdomen that afternoon: head down, very mobile.  When she went to bed she felt a huge movement, and knew that baby had done a forward roll into a breech presentation.  She got up, went to the toilet, and as she sat down her waters broke, a foot and some umbilical cord presented.  Sally kept a cool head, gently put the loop of pulsing cord back into her vagina (to keep it warm), explained what had happened to her husband, who called the ambulance and me.  Sally's first baby had been born by emergency caesarean after finding that he was presenting breech.  Her second baby had been born (cephalic) at home in my care.  This was the third.

The paramedics arrived quickly, and they assisted Sally as she walked to the vehicle, pausing as she laboured strongly.  Sally told me later in detail how she waited for the head to be born, and supported her baby as he took his early breaths.  By the time I connected with them Sally and baby were resting at the nearby hospital emergency room.  After birthing the placenta, we went home again and had a cup of tea, with vegemite toast.

A few others of these mothers have already been written about in this blog.  [Thanks here to the blogger search function!]

In 2007 I wrote generally about vaginal breech birth, and the deskilling of midwives and obstetricians.  I noted that:
 The very real situation that presents itself today is the deskilling of midwives, and of obstetricians, in breech birth. A baby may be harmed or die simply because the midwife or doctor did not know what a more skilled person could have done to achieve the best outcomes.
In 2008 I wrote about The 'B'-Word, and told two breech birth stories, about one whose baby was born at home after ECV, and another mother whose baby developed a serious spastic brain injury from hypoxia, after abruption of the placenta some minutes before the birth.

In 2009 I wrote 'Thinking about vaginal breech births' in the leadup to the screening of a video 'breech in the system'.

In 2011 I wrote about normal birth for a breech baby, reflecting on the work of colleagues in bringing vaginal breech birth to the attention of the maternity professions and public.

In (March) 2012, reflecting on twin and breech births, I wrote about safer and better systems of care:

I am very distressed when women with twin pregnancies, or babies presenting breech, and their midwives, are so unable to trust hospital care that they see home as the only option. Home or hospital, spontaneous, managed, or surgical, there are no guarantees. The mother's choice of home or hospital for the birth of her babies is her choice, and she will face different challenges with each pathway.

“... We must stop blaming individuals and put much greater effort into making our systems of care safer and better” (ACSQHC National Action Plan, 2001).

Another memorable breech (first twin) birth took place in 2009, and has been noted in the post titled 'Why bother coming here if you won't let us manage you the way we think is best?' 
and the follow-up post 'Drive-through birthing'.

The purpose of today's essay is not just to collect stories, but to assert my belief that we can change, and put effort into making "our systems of care safer and better".  By "our systems of care", I include all aspects of professional maternity care, from the 'village midwife' primary carer, and the bush hospitals, to the big tertiary maternity units.

I believe this is happening.  Women's Healthcare Australasia and the University of New South Wales, Sydney have advertised a program 'Hands off the breech'[click here for speaker' profiles] to be held 30 November and 1 December.  Several of these speakers will be presenting their talks in Melbourne and Warrnambool in Victoria, also in early December - click here for program.  I plan to attend the session hosted by Monash Medical Centre - one of the 'big 3' maternity hospitals in Melbourne, and a strategic place to get the discussion about vaginal breech birth happening.

Social media is active in this regard, and many messages are being posted on a facebook site linked to the Breech Birth ANZ site.

For some, the changes are too little, too late.  Mothers have told me that they agreed to caesarean births for their breech babies because they were afraid.  Fear works against the protective intuitive forces in spontaneous birth.

Mothers have said to me, "Are you willing to attend breech births at home?"  That is a question that I can not give an immediate answer to.  I am committed to doing all in my power to protect the wellbeing and safety of mother and baby.  There are times when a breech birth (or twin) at home could come into that scope.  Other times there will be discussion and the decision may be made to go to hospital.

That's enough from me for today.  Thankyou for your comments.

The following comment was left today (14 Nov 2012) on an earlier post about breech birthing.  I have included it here as it is relevant to the discussion:

motherwho ( has left a new comment on your post "THE ‘B’ WORD Breech. A woman today whose baby is...":

Hi Joy, thanks for writing this post! I enjoy reading your blog although this is my first comment.

My second baby was born last month (in Melbourne). My midwife first detected she was presenting breech at 29 weeks which was not a concern at the time, but as the weeks went on she stayed in the same position. At 36 and a bit weeks after much stress, acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, swimming, hypno-tracks, spinning, etc, etc, the little bub was still breech.

The hospital I had a [back up] booking at were most likely only giving me the option of an 'elective' caesarean (not really elective when it is the only option you are given?), so we went to another hospital and had a successful ECV. I went into labour spontaneously and had my baby girl at home last month.

I feel so lucky to have escaped the knife and terrified that it seemed to be the only option, had my baby remained breech, as we had decided we would prefer not to go ahead with our plan for a homebirth if she stayed in that position.

I still feel confused about the system we had to navigate and realise that if we had have been less educated we would not have questioned it. I can only imagine my recovery and the distress I would have felt now with a 5 week old baby and a toddler running around had things have been different.

My youngest sister is now a graduate midwife and I don't think she has ever seen a vaginal breech birth, nor has she been taught how to support a woman/baby should one arise under her care.

Definitely cause for great concern, in my opinion. 

Thankyou 'motherwho' for sharing your journey.

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