As your due date gets closer, you’re probably eager to hear that your baby is in position for delivery.
But breech, or feet-first presentation, affects up to 4 percent of full-term births. When this happens, doctors must either try to turn baby headfirst in the weeks before birth or perform a cesarean delivery, also known as a C-section, to help baby arrive safely into the world.
More and more people are turning to chiropractic care throughout their pregnancies to address concerns that may contribute to breech presentation. One specific method is known as the Webster technique.
Here’s what you need to know about this technique, how it’s performed, and where you can find a practitioner qualified to do it.
The Webster method is the overall name for a specific form of chiropractic care during pregnancy.
Practitioners perform the Webster technique on their patients. It is specifically focused on the pelvis and sacrum, as well as the muscles and ligaments in and around these areas.
Various chiropractors take on pregnant clients to help with anything from nausea to swelling to sleep. The primary goal of Webster certified practitioners, however, is to address misalignments (also called subluxations) to make more room in the pelvis.
The hope is that freeing up space in this area also frees up space in the uterus, ultimately aiding with labor and delivery.
The Webster technique was developed in the 1980s by chiropractor Dr. Larry Webster. Why did he care about imbalances in the sacrum and pelvis? Well, he was inspired after his daughter’s difficult birth to find ways that chiropractic care could address the pelvis and ease labor and delivery.
At the center of his method is the idea of intrauterine constraint, which means that a baby’s movement is restricted inside the uterus. This may cause aches and pains for the pregnant person and possible complications for baby, like the inability to move into an ideal birth presentation.
Throughout his work developing the technique, Webster observed that his gentle adjustments did result in turning babies from breech to vertex (head down).
In 2000, a certification program was launched for the method. Webster also founded the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), which is currently made up of more than 6,000 chiropractors who specialize in family health and well-being.
You might consider seeking chiropractic care with the Webster method if you have:
- a breech baby
- a history of breech babies
- other concerns with your sacrum or pelvis during pregnancy
The technique is an alternative to — and may be less invasive than — an external cephalic version, which is a procedure doctors more traditionally use to turn babies head down. During this procedure, a healthcare professional places their hands on your belly and tries to turn the baby.
You may seek care throughout your entire pregnancy (preventive) or anytime you have a specific concern (intervention) you’d like addressed.
That said, the protocol actually recommends that you seek care throughout your whole pregnancy, as the hormone relaxin in your body may not allow adjustments to hold as long as they would outside of pregnancy.
At your appointment, your chiropractor will offer you a special pregnancy pillow, so you can lie face down on a chiropractic table. The pillow has a cutout in the center so your body is supported and your baby (and belly) has room. Some providers even have a special table with a drop-down leaf to allow for additional space and comfort.
Your chiropractor will ask you to lie down while they make an assessment. In the Webster method, this begins by looking at both feet and then bending them up toward the buttocks to see if they meet evenly. If there are imbalances, that may mean your pelvis is out of alignment.
The actual adjustment happens on the affected side or sides by either using the drop table to help or a special adjusting instrument. Be sure to let your chiropractor know if anything doesn’t feel quite right.
Otherwise, they may ask you to turn over so they can evaluate any misalignments on the front side of your body. Work on the front side of the body tends to be a massage of soft tissue, like muscles in the abdomen and ligaments around the uterus.
If you’re at your appointment specifically for breech presentation, you may be surprised to learn that your chiropractor will not attempt to turn your baby. Instead, the adjustment is about creating space in the pelvis so your baby can more freely move into an optimal position on their own.
After your appointment is over, it’s important that you hydrate to aid with healing, blood flow, and lymphatic drainage.
Not just any chiropractor knows how to perform the Webster technique. Instead, you’ll need to ask around to find a certified practitioner.
Being certified means that the chiropractor has attained 180 hours of additional education specific to Webster’s manipulations and has passed a certification exam.
Your doctor, birthing professional (like a midwife), or even friends or family may know of practitioners in your area. Otherwise, to find Webster certified chiropractors near you, visit the ICPA’s find a chiropractor tool.
One 2002 study on the Webster technique showed a success rate of 82 percent for resolving breech presentation in month 8 of pregnancy.
The researchers called this a high success rate but noted that the sample size was small (112 women). This study also relied on self-reported data and may have been subject to recall bias, since only 18 percent of the chiropractors who were contacted replied to the survey.
Also, in 59 of these cases, the breech presentation was not confirmed by ultrasound, which introduced the potential for medical misdiagnosis. Because most breech presentations earlier in pregnancy resolve on their own by term, there is no reason to believe that the chiropractic interventions in these cases were helpful.
A 2020 case study on a 28-year-old woman yielded similarly encouraging results. The woman had sought out the Webster technique to help with her breech baby when she was 35 weeks pregnant. After five adjustments and some bodywork at home, the baby had flipped from breech to vertex before delivery.
On the other hand, a
But small sample sizes and individual case studies don’t add up to thorough research. More and better studies need to be conducted before this technique can be validated. The Webster technique needs more solid research in order to truly measure its success rate.
One major benefit of the Webster technique is that it’s relatively gentle when compared to external cephalic version.
And currently, it’s believed to have a higher success rate, at least according to the very few published studies we have — again, more study is definitely needed. (For reference, the success rate of external cephalic version is a little over 50 percent.)
This data also suggests that if you have regular Webster technique adjustments, you may be less likely to have a cesarian delivery and therefore may avoid the risks associated with surgical birth.
The Webster technique is considered safe for most pregnancies. It may be helpful throughout pregnancy or simply as an intervention if a baby is breech.
And along with addressing breech presentation, the Webster technique may ease:
- leg pain
- leg tightness
- back pain
- birth canal issues (narrow space, for example)
Again, the Webster technique is considered relatively safe.
One con, though, might be that even if you have health insurance, it doesn’t always cover chiropractic care. Before making an appointment, you’ll want to check ahead to find out how much will be covered and how much you’ll need to pay out of pocket.
There are also situations where chiropractic care may not be appropriate for you. Speak with your doctor before getting adjusted if you have any of the following health conditions:
- vaginal bleeding
- placenta previa or placental abruption
- moderate to severe preeclampsia
If you’re interested in giving the Webster technique a try, start by chatting with your doctor at your next prenatal appointment. It’s likely that your doctor is already familiar with this mode of treatment and may have information that could help guide you.
- Have your patients had successful outcomes with this method?
- When is the best time in my pregnancy to start chiropractic care?
- Is there any medical reason I shouldn’t seek chiropractic care?
- Are there any risks of chiropractic care I may not have heard about in my research?
- Do you know of any Webster certified chiropractors in our area?
- What warning signs should I look for during or after an adjustment (pain, discomfort, etc.)?
The Webster technique may be worth a try if you have certain concerns about your pregnancy or your baby’s presentation in the uterus. Even if you don’t have concerns, chiropractic care may help you deal with aches and pains as your body and baby grow.
Speak with your doctor for more information about how this method might help you, what the benefits and risks are, as well as to find certified chiropractors in your area.