It was just over a week ago at my 35 week prenatal appointment that I learned that New Tab was still breech and we had to start getting serious about changing his/her position. The baby spinning positions and techniques I'd been doing on my own for three weeks weren't working. One of my midwives set me up with a list of referrals to chiropractors and acupuncturists and gently reminded me that their practice could not deliver breech babies. If the situation didn't get resolved I would be transferred to our back-up Ob-Gyn (a wonderful doctor whom I really like) for an external cephalic version procedure, and if that didn't work, a C-section.
So that was disappointing.
I went home and dealt with this new and stressful situation the way I deal with all new and stressful situations: Google. Research just helps me. It was a real mystery to me how chiropractics or acupuncture could possible help turn my baby. I learned that moxibustion can increase fetal activity in hopes the baby will turn its head down. The Chiropractic Webster Technique is used to give the baby more space within the uterus to move around by loosening up tight round ligaments, and I've had some pain in those ligaments, so I decided to start by seeing a Chiropractor. The earliest appointment I could get was an hour before my 36 week visit with my midwife.
So Friday came and I had a great first visit with the Chiropractor. Having those ligaments relaxed through sustained pressure was uncomfortable but nothing I couldn't handle. He explained that he saw the majority of breech babies turn down into a favorable position between the third and sixth appointment to administer the Webster Technique. That sounded fine to me because I figured I still had about two to three weeks before I would have to get transferred out of the midwives' care to more invasive procedures, so there was plenty of time to fit in 3-6 visits.
Unfortunately, my bubble was burst an hour later when I explained to my midwife that my baby was still breech but I felt optimistic that we could resolve this in the next four weeks before I hit my due date. She informed me that my doctor likes to do external versions by 37 weeks, before the babies have a chance to grow so big they can't be moved out of their position. Instead of having three weeks to work on the situation with non-invasive care, I have barely 7 days. We talked more and reached a compromise: if I am still breech by the day I hit 37 weeks, we will schedule an external version for 3 days later.
I've cried many tears this weekend, mostly over fear of having to undergo the extremes of obstetric care. External versions are painful. It requires that I take a powerful muscle relaxer when I haven't so much as taken tylenol my whole pregnancy. It carries the risk of placental abruption and cord entanglement, and it only has a 50% success rate. I've wondered more than once if it might be worth it to skip that procedure and move straight to the cesarean section...another intervention I desperately hope to avoid. I've never had surgery before, let alone a surgery where I would be awake the entire time. What's worse is that I know vaginal breech births are not only possible, but they're even common in other countries. Tim's cousin (in France) had one just a few months ago. My mother in law had one with Tim's brother. The cultural norm of suing doctors for malpractice has driven up insurance costs and decreased the various possibilities that doctors have in caring for patients in America to the point that they have to rule out many practices, including vaginal breech birth. We've gotten to the point now where cesarean delivery of breech babies is the preferred method of delivery because of the lack of education and training available to doctors on how to birth breech babies vaginally. It's a rather maddening situation to be in; faced with surgery that isn't entirely necessary. A study by the American Congress of Ob-Gyn's showed that in 95% of vaginal breech births, mother and baby came out fine.
So we're down to ultimatums. I have my next chiropractic appointment tomorrow morning, and I'll keep going back as often as he can fit me in. I'm going to try to get in to see my midwives again for a quick check tomorrow because I've noticed the baby shifting and I want to stay updated on any position changes. Anyhow...we have until Friday to get our wee babe pointing the right direction.
It's not lost on me that in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor problem. Ultimately, the baby and I are both healthy and strong and we'll probably come out of this situation with nothing more than a few scars. We'll be okay. And even though I'm frustrated with the medical system, I am very grateful for it. I actually have choices when it comes to my prenatal care. Heck, even the fact that I have prenatal care is more than what most women of the world can say.
So we will be grateful and hopeful.