One thing we all have in common is we come into this life through birth. However, the quality of the experience and the different choices parents make regarding the event can vary widely.
These experiences and choices can be limited for those who are in breech position in the womb and for their mothers-to-be.
In breech birth, the baby enters the birth canal with the buttocks or feet first as opposed to the normal headfirst presentation in which the baby is positioned head down, facing back.
Today, about 3 to 4 percent of babies present themselves in a breech position, and the vast majority will be born by cesarian section.
Early in June, I joined leading professionals from the Los Angeles-area birthing community to discuss prevention and management of care for breeches and other malpositioned babies.
Sharing information, experiences, and insights, we addressed real alternatives to C-sections for breech births, which are so common in the United States. Ana-Paula Markel, doula (birth coach) and childbirth educator, hosted the event at BINI Birth in North Hollywood for 100 people.
Many questions were discussed, such as: Why are some babies in a breech position? Can we prevent a breech or posterior presentation? What are the options for a mother with a breech baby in our community?
Markel moderated the panel, which included Naoli Vinaver Lopez, a midwife from Mexico; Davi Kaur Khalsa, an LA-area midwife; Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, who specializes in vaginal birth of breech twins in hospitals; Jessica Jennings, a prenatal yoga instructor who works at BINI; Dr. Elliot Berlin, an LA-area chiropractor who specializes in helping with breech babies; and Dr. Stuart Fischbein, an obstetrician-gynecologist who assists women who choose to give birth at home. Under certain conditions, Fischbein will deliver breech births at home.
Breech presentation carries the risk of serious complications to the baby during the process of birth. For example, since the largest part of the body, the baby’s head, is the last part to emerge, it may have difficulty getting through the birth canal.
Additionally, there is the risk of cord prolapse, a condition in which the umbilical cord is compressed as the baby moves toward the birth canal, slowing the baby’s supply of oxygen and blood.
For these reasons, a vaginal mode of delivery for breech presentation, as opposed to the more accepted C-section, has been very controversial in the fields of obstetrics and midwifery.
Yet a cesarean birth is not without its own risks, mainly to the mother, such as infection, hemorrhage, and stroke.
According to Vinaver, traditional midwives have many techniques that are used with a breech baby, such as specific exercises for the mother or use of ice, heat, or even a bell placed at the mother’s hip, to stimulate the baby to turn. She estimated that these techniques were successful in 98 percent of cases.
Dr. Fischbein spoke of his practice of assisting women whose babies are breech to give birth at home. However, he said, “There is zero training for breech deliveries.” There are only a handful of doctors in the Los Angeles area willing to help a mother attempt a vaginal breech birth, and hospitals frown on the procedure.
We know now that babies are fully conscious in the womb, and that communication can take place. Babies can be guided to present themselves as they are most easily born.
I feel there were some important issues missing from the forum, including the use of hypnosis to help babies present themselves in an optimal position in utero or to be guided to turn around before the birth.
At the event, we only looked at the mechanics of turning babies, treating them as ‘objects’ instead of honoring the fact that they are fully conscious beings and can be spoken to.
This awareness would lead us to explore the phenomena of why babies choose to present themselves breech and enable us to step away from the limited causes that medicine presently recognizes.
This is the first part of a three-part series.
Next week: communicating with the unborn baby.
Marie-Paul Baxiu, originally from Paris, is a clinical hypnotherapist, birth doula, and the founder and owner of Childbirth Hypnosis Training, EasyBirthing.com