By the 34th week of pregnancy, most babies have moved into a head-down position in preparation for delivery. Some, however, do not. Babies that are positioned feet or buttocks down in the womb are called “breech babies.” Babies that are lying sideways in the womb are called “transverse-lie” babies. Either way, a vaginal delivery of these babies can be extremely complicated if they do not move into the proper head-down position. Certain exercises may help the baby to turn into the right position, but for your safety and that of your baby, get the approval of your obstetrician or midwife before trying any of them.
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The ideal position for delivery is having the baby head-down in the womb, facing up. This is the best position because the baby’s head is the largest and firmest part of the body to pass through the birth canal. As the head exits the body, it stretches the cervix, making it easier for the rest of the body to follow. However, if the more narrow parts of the baby’s body come out first, the cervix may not be suitably stretched to allow easy passage of the baby’s head, which could endanger the baby. If your due date is rapidly approaching and your baby is still not head-down, your doctor may discuss scheduling a Caesarian section to deliver your baby.
One of the most well-known exercises for turning a breech baby is called the “breech tilt.” To execute the breech tilt, prop an ironing board at a low angle against a sofa or chair. Make sure the board is sturdy and secure. Ask a family member to help you to lie down on the board with your head down and your feet up on the board. Once you’ve found your balance, massage your stomach in a downward circular motion and visualize the baby turning head-down. You can also have a family member or friend speak to the baby through a cardboard tube placed near your public bone, which may encourage the baby to turn in the direction of the voice. A bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin towel and placed near the baby’s head may induce it to turn away from the cold. The “Spinning Babies” website recommends lying on the board for up to 20 minutes at a time, three times daily.
The forward-leaning inversion position can help turn both a transverse-lying baby and a breech baby, according to SpinningBabies.com. With a friend or family member helping to support you, kneel on the edge of a sofa and slowly lean forward until your forearms are resting on the floor in front of you. Your hips and knees should be approximately 10-20 inches above your arms and shoulders, and your belly should hang off of the sofa. Relax your belly, neck and head. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Then crawl slowly off of the sofa, bringing one knee down and then the other. Sit up and catch your breath. Repeat. The exercise should be performed twice daily for several consecutive days.
Alternatives to Exercise
If after a few weeks you’re having no success with the exercises, look into other ways to turn the baby. At around 37 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor or midwife may suggest doing an external cephalic version, in which a medical practitioner applies pressure to your abdomen to gently turn the baby. According to ParentingWeekly.com, this procedure has a success rate of 60 to 70 percent. Or see an acupuncturist, who can apply ultra-thin, sterile needles to certain points in your body or use moxibustion sticks to encourage the baby to turn.
If you feel dizzy or nauseated, or experience any cramping, spotting or contractions during these exercises, stop immediately as you could fall and injure yourself or the baby. Never attempt to turn the baby with your hands as you could severely harm the baby.