One Woman’s Successful Frank Breech Vaginal Hospital Birth

by Birth Without Fear on September 14, 2015

Let me rewind a little bit…At 37 weeks, we found out via ultrasound that Everett was frank breech. We tried everything we could to turn him. Everything was totally unsuccessful in turning him. He was stubborn and comfortable in his breech position.

Typically, a breech baby these days means a c-section. But I was being told by my midwives that I was THE perfect candidate to attempt a vaginal breech delivery…if I could find an experienced doctor willing to do it. Immediately after that 37 week ultrasound, I started calling every OB in our city (we live in a big city). After dozens of phone calls and lots of No’s, I found someone willing to meet with me to discuss it. We met and after a thorough health history discussion and an extensive examination, we all decided I was a good candidate and we’d do a trial of labor and see how things went.

However, delivering with an OB in a hospital setting meant having to compromise on some things that I wanted. In the mean time we tried everything we could to get him to flip. I saw a chiropractor who used the Webster technique. I saw an acupuncturist for moxibustion acupuncture. I did the spinning babies protocols at home. I shined a bright flash light on my lower belly multiple times a day. I took a homeopathic supplement that’s supposed to encourage flipping. I drank 100+ ounces of water a day to up my amniotic fluid levels, hoping to give him more room to move. And last of all, we tried an EVC (External Cephalic Version).

Then about 39 weeks, the priority went from turning him to encouraging labor to come on it’s own since inductions are not allowed with a breech. My doctor was scheduled to leave the country on September 3rd, so we had a scheduled c-section for September 1st. If he wasn’t here to deliver, I’d end up with a cesarean anyway. I had a deadline for getting this baby out naturally!I had contractions on and off starting around 38.5 weeks, but nothing stuck around (much like my pregnancy with #2). On Thursday September 28th at 39 weeks 3 days, I saw my doc and he did an internal exam to check for dilation. I was 3-4cm but not very effaced. Baby was engaged in my pelvis, but we think not having the pressure of his head on my cervix probably kept me from thinning out like I normally would.

I had some crampy contractions after the internal check (which was at 4pm), but I figured my cervix was just irritated, and they’d go away. We went for a long walk after my appointment to try to get things moving. By 7pm I was still feeling them and they were definitely painful. In the back of my mind I knew they were the real thing, but I didn’t want to jump the gun. I took a long shower after the kids went to bed, did some cleaning, and a little laundry.

By 11pm they were spacing out quite a bit to just a few an hour but still pretty painful. We decided to go to bed and get some sleep. I said a prayer and asked the little boy in my belly to allow me at least a few hours of sleep. But I kind of knew that wouldn’t happen. When had he cooperated up to that point?! I maybe slept 30 minutes before a hard contraction woke me up. Then maybe another 20 minutes and another 15 before I gave up and couldn’t stand to be laying down any longer.

I grabbed my phone and sat up in bed timing them and trying to distract myself from the slight anxiety that started to creep in. Around 2am I decided I was truly in labor with contractions 7ish minutes apart and it was time to pack the last minute stuff and wake up my husband, Corey. I let him know what was going on and decided to take another shower because I was having terrible back labor and the water on my back sounded nice.

I paged my midwife at 2:15am, and she thought it would be a good idea to come to the house and do an internal exam and see where I was at. We called Corey’s mom to come over and sleep on the couch until the girls woke up. I started to get a little nervous that it was a false alarm because my labor pattern was so weird and different from anything I’d experienced before (strong contractions further apart with multiple small ones in between). By the time both of them were here, my midwife determined I was 6cm and my water was bulging. And as soon as everyone arrived, my contractions were picking up in frequency and intensity, so we decided to head to the hospital since my labors move fast. By the time we got there and got into a room, it was almost 4am.

Despite my history of quickly progressing labors and the fact that I was once again GBS positive and needed antibiotics, the L&D nurse completely ignored me. She got me in a room, asked me for a urine sample, and left. We didn’t see her again for 45 minutes (she was too busy chatting with the ladies outside). And she only came into the room at that point because my water had broken and I still didn’t have an IV line inserted, and I was definitely going through transition.

I was incredulous when she told me I had to SIT in the bed while they monitored my and baby’s vitals for 20 straight minutes to make sure he was tolerating labor well before I could go ahead with a breech delivery. HELLO!! Why didn’t she tell me that and get that going the second I got in there?!?! Now I had to sit there for TWENTY a minutes while going through TRANSITION????? I was ready to scream and bite her head off and I made sure she knew I was pissed.

She then proceeded to try to get an IV going. The first time she couldn’t get the vein. The second spot she tried my vein blew and there was blood gushing and dripping down my arm. If I had not been in terrible labor pain and distracted as a result, I’d have definitely passed out. Then she stuck me a THIRD time and was only able to get the needle in half way, but it was enough to get stuff in me so she left it. She was very vocal about how long it took to get a vein since I refused to let her stab me during a contraction (which were coming every 90ish seconds at that point). It was clear early on that this lady and I were not going to get along. I was just SO glad my midwife was there to support me, help me stay sane, and be a mediator between me and this awful nurse.

By the time she had me hooked up, she said if they didn’t get me moved to a delivery room ASAP I might end up having the baby right there. But due to the intensity and frequency of my contractions, it took me 15ish minutes to even get out of the bed and into a wheel chair for her to move me. Which she was clearly annoyed by and also very vocal about. Once I got to a delivery room they were prepped and ready to go. My doc checked me and I was 10 cm, but had a lip on my cervix still and was told I could NOT push yet. Because he was bottom first, it was very important to be fully effaced so we didn’t risk head entrapment.

I had THE worst back labor I have ever had. The level of pain I was experiencing (I assume because of his position) was in another realm from what I’d experienced with either of my girls. I wasn’t able to labor in water because I was so close, and a water birth was out of the question this time around. I started to lose my cool in a way I’ve never done before in labor. And then I was involuntarily pushing and could not stop. They checked me again but I still had a lip and wasn’t supposed to be pushing.

It was at that point that I did something I never thought I’d do, I asked for an epidural. I got THE rudest most disapproving glare and shake of the head from that awful nurse. I was ready to bite her head off! I was in so much pain that I was actually starting to go crazy and I knew the only way I’d be able to not push was to not feel the contractions. I was feeling guilty, but my midwife assured me that it was TOTALLY reasonable to want an epidural this time around and at least I had made it almost the whole way without. She said I likely would not have the drugs in my system long enough for them to cross the placenta and affect the baby. It’s not standard practice to give a woman an epidural at 10 cm, but this was a special case.

There was a chance of needing an episiotomy to make room for baby’s head as well as the possibility that the doc would need to stick his hand up there to flex baby’s head or use forceps for the same reason if baby wasn’t flexing his head on his own. And I didn’t want to feel all that going on. They had an anesthesiologist on standby in the room in case I wanted it for these exact reasons, so as soon as I said the word, they got to work. He was pretty quick, but it was still agonizing to try and sit still through those contractions while he placed the catheter.

Let me just say, one of my biggest motivating factors for natural drug-free childbirth (outside from the whole idea of it’s better for baby to not be doped up) was my fear of needles and the idea of getting one put in my SPINE. Well…it wasn’t bad. AT ALL. I don’t even know why I was so scared (of course, in the moment, all I wanted was that needle in there to start the drugs flowing). And within 5-10 minutes of that being put in, I started to smile and sat back and said “so THIS is why people get these things!!” Hahahaha! It was SUCH a relief. They gave me a low enough dose to still feel the contractions a bit so I knew when to push, but enough to be totally numb in my lady regions. And because I was able to finally relax a little and take some deep breaths, that lip on my cervix was gone in minutes.

It was time to push.Throughout my laboring at the hospital, I’d had several nurses and doctors ask my permission to witness the birth (since a breech delivery is pretty rare). And I said ok to everyone who asked. I figured, it was a learning experience for all, and if it resulted in more women being able to do a vaginal breech delivery, than I was happy to pave the way and be the guinea pig. Corey was really tempted to take full-room selfie but wasn’t sure everyone would appreciate it (particularly that evil L&D nurse). I think it would’ve been pretty funny though!

So with an audience of four doctors, three midwives, and another four or five nurses plus my own midwife and husband, I pushed with all my might! It was pretty weird to feel/watch him coming out bottom first. Once his bottom and legs were out I kept pushing to his shoulder blade. He was just kind of sitting almost cross-legged on the bed waiting for his head to come out, moving a bit but not frantic or anything. Kind of strange and really cool all at the same time.

I think it was at that point that the doc gave me a very small episiotomy, but I can’t remember for sure. It might have been earlier. All I remember is that I was pushing this baby out like my life depended on it. Because his did. Once he was out to his head, I had 3 minutes to push his head out before he’d run out of oxygen since he cord was compressed. I remember the doctor telling someone to watch the clock and said out loud to me “ok Amber, we’ve got 3 minutes. Plenty of time. You’re doing great. Let’s just finish up the job.” He then used forceps to flex his head as he was not flexing on his own, and about 30 seconds later, he was out! I think I pushed a total of 5-10 minutes from start to finish. He had zero breathing problems and apgar scores of a 9 and 10. He was immediately placed on my chest while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up.

Everett 1-2

I’m not a crier. It was the only time I’ve ever cried at one of my childrens’ births. Not because I’m not emotional or ridiculously happy, I just don’t express my feelings with tears usually. But this time I was just SO relieved and happy that he was here safe and sound that I couldn’t help it.He was born at 6:25am. He was gorgeous. It was weird not seeing a cone-shaped head on him. He nursed almost immediately like a pro.We were somewhat like celebrities among the hospital staff during our stay but in a good way. “Oh!! YOU are the breech delivery????!! Congrats and way to go!!!” Recovery has been tougher with the episiotomy. I had one with my first baby, but I wasn’t chasing two toddlers around while trying to heal. But I wouldn’t trade the vaginal delivery for anything. Sooo glad we did it and so thankful we found a doc willing to do it!!I want my experience to help empower other ladies to have breech deliveries if they’re the right candidate for it!

by Amber Hansen

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin September 19, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Congrats mom on a job well done and welcome to the world Everett! I would love to see breech deliveries available to all women! I was also born as a footling breech some years ago but my mother did not have the option of delivering in a hospital and turned to a naturopathic doctor who delivered me in his home. Some of us like to jump into life feet first 😉

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Kathryn September 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Wow, it’s good to hear successful breech stories. Congrats, he’s beautiful!

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Callie September 19, 2015 at 10:10 pm

I didn’t remember all the details of your birth story, Amber, it was so fun to read it! Very inspiring!

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Shannon Cullen September 20, 2015 at 7:31 am

This was awesome to read. I also had a natural vaginal breech baby. My situation was a little different. My midwife was on vacation and i was 2.5 weeks early. I only had one ultra sound in the beginning so when we arrived at the hospital (planned a 2nd home birth but the back up midwife was on call at nassau university medical center so i chose to go there rather than the handful of local hospitals near me) we left the house at about 230 arrived at the hospital 45 min later(intense contractions the whole way) once there my water broke, they set me up on the table to do ultrasound and found baby breech butt first, they called the breech specialist, Dr. Huong, I didn’t know that was even a specialty but so grateful I was there and he said I was fully dilated and effaced and by 420 baby arrived. I used the Bradley method for both births so I kept my eyes closed to relax and didn’t notice the audience I had until I opened my eyes for a moment, then seeing all those nurses I shut them to keep all the distractions out. So I love to have this in common with someone. We were also popular, I am grateful that I was able to stick to my birth plan as far as natural vaginal delivery even for my breech. I didn’t know if it was possible at a hospital but it was. So for those who are able to still deliver naturally even while breech, I’m proud to be part of that club.

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Rebeca October 8, 2015 at 11:04 am

Hi Shannon… I’m curious to know if they had you on your back or on all four legs….
Thanks!

I’m 33 weeks now… no breech but would like to know just in case.

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Linda Lamb August 30, 2016 at 11:33 am

I thought I would add my story. My Everett was also born frank breech, almost 39 years ago. Natural childbirth was not the norm, but I so wanted to have my firstborn naturally. I found a class taught in the teacher’s home and we prepared. My OBGyn had prepared me for the possibility of a C section, but he turned just before my last appointment, so I was thrilled. I woke up with intense contractions, my water broke and rushed to the hospital. The Obstetrician on call was the older partner in the group and I was in transition by the time he got to the hospital. He told me that, if I could work with him, we’d try to deliver this baby together. There was a lot of pauses in pushing (which was soooooo difficult), but he was born with no problems. Recovering with all the stitches wasn’t pleasant, but he was worth it. I was told later that they didn’t like to deliver first baby’s breech because they can lose oxygen and IQ points. I don’t know how I could have handled him with a higher IQ. I do believe the fact that I had a fast labor was a big factor as well in preserving his Oxygen levels. I know that I would have probably had a c section had I had my regular Dr. and am grateful that I got that experience, but I would have had a beautiful son, either way. I did become a childbirth instructor for many years and helped encourage parents to be prepared and know they have choices. In fact, Dr’s in our town began encouraging their mom’s -to- be to go to our classes as they saw the difference in them during labor and delivery. You still have choices in childbirth and many more today, in fact. Any way your baby gets here, will be a success. Please educate yourself and be as prepared as possible. You can be have more control over your body, your mind, and your emotions by understanding what is happening and will be better able to make your own choices by preparing yourself. I applaud all of you for approaching parenthood with your eyes open.

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Linda Lamb August 30, 2016 at 11:36 am

Note: I forgot to note the obvious, that he had turned again and was breech when we got to the hospital.

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