Can A Chiropractor Turn A Breech Baby? Experts Explain
When told a baby is breech, it can be hard to not let the panic set in. The thought that baby is positioned to make her entrance via her backside, or — gulp — feet first? Uh, no thanks. When you think of some of the remedies, like hanging upside down on the stairs, it makes sense to enlist help. But can chiropractors turn breech babies?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted that there are several reasons a little one might be positioned to tap dance his way into the world. Sometimes it's because a woman is carrying twins, or because there is too much or too little amniotic fluid. It might be that the uterus has an abnormal shape, or that the placenta is covering the opening of the uterus.
Breech babies are also more common when a baby is pre-term, and simply haven't had time to flip over yet. (Which, FYI, most babies do. The ACOG noted that breech births occur in only 3 to 4% of full-term pregnancies.)
There are several different options out there for women seeking to get their baby to swim around into the proper "go" position. There are exercises and poses one can try, as detailed here on Mama Natural. (Apparently some women do handstands in swimming pools? To which I say "wow" and also "oof".)
There is also a more formal medical procedure called External Cephalic Version (or ECV). This is essentially when a doctor or midwife sort of physically turns the baby using their hands, by applying pressure to your stomach. This is usually done in the delivery room, in a last ditch effort to get the baby to swing around.
Dr. Jennifer Butt is an OB-GYN affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and she says that there are some risks related to "turning" a baby, specifically to ECV. She says these risks can include: "vaginal bleeding, placental abruption, rupture of amniotic sac, umbilical cord prolapse, fetal distress and non-reassuring heart rate, and stillbirth. Some of these risks may result in the need for an emergency cesarean section." Butt says some women might not be good candidates for ECV, and should discuss it with their doctor.
And then, yes, there is the chiropractic option. Dr. Andrea Auerbach is a chiropractor with advanced certification in perinatal and pediatric care. She says that while chiropractors don’t actually turn breech babies, they can perform something called the Webster Technique, which is "a specific evaluation of the alignment of the mother's pelvis and spine." Says Auerbach, "Often when what is found is corrected with chiropractic care, the baby has the room it needs to turn if it is constricted. The approach is effective and highly recommended."
Dr. Randi Jaffe is another chiropractor with a specific focus on working with moms and moms-to-be. She explains that the Webster Technique was developed by Larry Webster, D.C., in 1982. "It was designed to restore normal body function. It was observed time and time again that when this technique was used on pregnant women who were carrying breech, their babies turned from breech to head down. Some babies even turned from posterior to anterior, a more desirable position for labor. Once balance in the mother’s pelvis was restored by this adjustment to her spine, babies sought out their optimal position for birth."
So I guess one could think of chiropractors as rearranging the room a bit. Sort of Marie Kondo-ing the womb. While they don't technically flip the baby, they can help give the little one the space to do so.
However, Butt advises all moms considering going the chiropractic route to first check in with their OB-GYN. "Pregnant patients who have a breech baby at term should be properly evaluated, as breech presentation can be due to various causes. There are also contraindications to turning a breech baby, so it is important to discuss with a physician the specifics of one's pregnancy."
In terms of the Webster method specifically, Butt notes that she isn't aware of any published, randomized clinical trials about the technique, and therefore the efficacy of it is a bit of an unknown.
At the end of the day, if your bebe still stubbornly refuses to somersault into the right position, well, then they may just be destined to arrive via C-section. Which yes, might not be what you had planned. But as you may have already learned from talking to other mothers, when it comes to labor and delivery, "plans" oftentimes go out the window. The important thing is to keep both mother and baby safe and healthy.
Dr. Jennifer Butt, obstetrician and gynecologist affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City
Dr. Andrea Auerbach, chiropractor with Park Slope Family Wellness
Dr. Randi Jaffe, chiropractor