At 37 weeks 2 days I went for an External Cephalic Version (ECV) to try to flip my breech baby. Throughout the previous week I had tried Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Moxibustion as well as several home techniques. I was really hoping that when I arrived at the hospital for the procedure that the ultrasound would show that she had flipped on her own. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
After the ultrasound an electronic fetal monitor was placed on my belly for about 20 minutes and my vitals were taken as well. This is to ensure that both baby and mama are not stressed. I was then hooked up to an IV with saline.
The perinatologist came in and spoke about the procedure. He cautioned that he would only do as much as baby and I could tolerate. The baby’s heart rate and position would be monitored throughout the procedure by using ultrasound. If the baby’s heart rate were to get too low then we would have to stop immediately. He said that he had about a 65% success rate with the procedure, meaning that not only did the baby flip head down but remained head down for delivery. The procedure could be very painful. He has had patients throw him out of the room and yelling profanities at him. And with all the pushing, there is likely to be a lot of tenderness and possibly bruising afterwards. Serious risks of the procedure, that he said have never happened to him, include causing the amniotic sac to break, placental abruption, or fetal distress; all of which would necessitate an emergency cesarean section.
As he was listing all of these things, I wondered why the heck I was putting myself and my baby through this. Was I making the wrong decision? I really wanted the chance to have the natural birth my husband and I had been preparing for. I felt with the doctor’s pretty good track record that I would proceed.
After signing the consent forms I was given a shot of terbutaline which is a tocolytic medication that causes the uterus to relax and prevent contractions. A side effect of the shot is heart palpitations. I did experience that and was feeling even more anxious though it may have helped to up my adrenaline levels to get me focused on what was about to happen. But, I felt really jittery and was even shaking a bit.
We went in to the ultrasound room. I was so thankful that one of the midwives from our birth center was able to be there with me for the procedure. She could tell I was nervous but assured me that since I had taken birth classes and prepared myself for natural birth that I could use those same techniques to get through this. Between having her and my husband by my side I felt ready. Also in the room was the perinatologist, ultrasound tech and a medical assistant.
I started focusing on breathing in and out and blocking out everyone else in the room so I shut my eye. The ultrasound was placed on my belly so the doctor could see exactly what position the baby was in. I could feel his fingers dig deep in to my belly and start pushing and sliding. It was definitely painful and the midwife was great at coaching and reminding me to focus on my breathing and telling me that I could handle what was happening. I blocked out any conversation happening. The ultrasound was placed again where the doctor pointed to see if she had moved and to check in on her heart rate to make sure she wasn’t stressed. After all was clear, he put his hands on my belly and went again. This time he used more pressure and I started making noise while I was breathing, which actually helped. But I felt a sliding motion and she had moved a bit from her head being by my right ribs over to underneath my left ribs. The doctor took another break and checked in. I was getting excited because it was happening! He went back in to keep trying to spin her but now she wouldn’t budge. We took another break and he tried again. Harder this time. I started feeling like I was in a cold sweat and having trouble breathing but I really wanted this baby to turn so I let him keep going. She wouldn’t move. He checked in on her and all was well so he tried again. He pushed the hardest yet and really tried to get her going but she stayed put. He said “I know it’s time to stop when I can’t feel my fingers anymore”. And he decided to stop.
The baby was doing fine. I had turned pale. I laid there for a bit still just trying to breathe and kept my eyes closed. I was so disappointed that she didn’t make the full turn. He started talking about how the method of baby’s arrival is not as important as the baby itself. I know he is right about that, I just need to fully accept it after having planned for so long to have a natural birth.
I sat up and felt lightheaded. We waited until I felt a little better before getting up to go back to be hooked up to the fetal monitor. Then the baby was monitored for about an hour to make sure that she was still reactive after the procedure.
My belly is very tender the following day and depending on where I feel her movement it hurts a little bit sometimes too. But, I have no visible bruising. I have my next checkup at the birth center in a few days so we will form a plan from there. One thing I do know, is I will have to schedule a cesarean section at the hospital.
Overall, I don’t regret having the External Cephalic Version performed. It was worth a shot and while it was painful I know I would have really regretted not knowing if it would have worked if I decided not to try it. I hope that this will give those of you faced with having an ECV a better idea of what the procedure may be like.