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When your little one is ready to make their grand entrance into the world you’ll want their head to lead the way. For a vaginal birth, it’s ideal for your baby to be head down, so it comes out of the vagina first. This is known as a vertex presentation.
While babies come out head first in most vaginal deliveries, there are instances when your little one may decide they want to come feet or butt first. This is known as a breech presentation.
But don’t worry, you don’t need to check for breech positioning. Your doctor or midwife will check baby’s position as you near the end of your pregnancy.
If an ultrasound confirms that your baby is breech, you might wonder what you can do to help them move in the right direction. In addition to active efforts to encourage baby to turn, many pregnant moms wonder if their sleeping position can help.
You might be hard-pressed to find a definitive answer as to a specific sleep position to help turn a breech baby. But what you’ll find are expert opinions on the best ways to sleep while pregnant, which may also encourage a breech baby to turn.
Rue Khosa, ARNP, FNP-BV, IBCLC, a board-certified family nurse practitioner and owner of The Perfect Push, says to maintain a position and posture that allows for a wide-open pelvis. Whether you’re taking a nap, turning in for the night, or sitting or standing around, take a moment to think, “Does my baby have enough room?”
Khosa suggests sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees and ankles. “The more room your baby has, the easier it will be for them to find their way to a vertex position,” she says.
Diana Spalding, MSN, CNM, is a certified nurse-midwife, pediatric nurse, and writer of The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama. She agrees that sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs — with as much of your leg on the pillows as possible — can help to create optimal positioning for a baby to turn.
“Roll over, so your belly is touching the bed, with the rest of you supported by a lot of pillows. This can help the baby lift up and out of your pelvis so they can turn,” says Spalding.
When your pregnancy is nearing the final weeks and your belly is growing by the day, lying on your side is the ideal sleeping position. Gone are the days of sleeping comfortably on your belly or sleeping safely on your back.
For years, we’d been told the left side is where we need to spend our resting and sleeping hours during the final months of pregnancy. This has to do with blood flow from a large vein called the inferior vena cava (IVC), which carries blood to your heart and then to your baby.
According to some healthcare providers, sleeping on your left side reduces the risk of compressing this vein, allowing optimal blood flow.
Recently however, a
If you can spend most of the time on your left side, aim for that position. But if your body keeps wanting to roll right, relax and get some sleep, mama. When baby arrives, you will have plenty of sleepless nights.
The experts agree that side-lying with pillows to support your growing belly is the recommended sleeping position when pregnant. Most of all, Khosa says to avoid sleeping on your back, especially the further along you get: “The weight of the baby can compress the blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients to the uterus and baby.”
Khosa tells her patients they can sleep on their tummy for as long as they are comfortable doing so, unless advised otherwise by their provider.
When considering ways to turn a breech baby, your provider may talk to you about external cephalic version (ECV). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), if you’re more than 36 weeks along, an ECV may help to turn the fetus so the head is down.
To do an ECV, your doctor will use their hands to apply firm pressure to your stomach, with the goal of rolling the baby into a head-down position. When successful, which is about
That said, an ECV procedure does not come without the risk of complications. ACOG advises there can be complications related to placental abruption, preterm labor, or pre-labor rupture of membranes. If any problems occur with you or the baby’s heart rate during the turning, your doctor will stop right away.
If your baby’s breech position does not resolve on its own, Khosa says to consider taking a Spinning Babies Workshop offered in some parts of the country, or consider the video class. This method focuses on specific tricks for turning breech babies by optimizing “the physical relationship between the bodies of the mother and baby.”
Besides a Spinning Babies class or ECV, there are other things to try to turn your baby. As always, before you attempt alternative treatments like visiting a chiropractor or acupuncturist, be sure to get the okay from your midwife or doctor.
Here are a few things to try, according to Spalding:
- Visit an acupuncturist who can perform moxibustion — a technique involving moxa sticks that contain the leaves of the mugwort plant. An acupuncturist will use these (as well as traditional acupuncture techniques) to stimulate the BL67 (Bladder 67) acupuncture point
- Consider seeing a chiropractor who is certified in the Webster technique. This technique may help correct pelvic misalignment and relax the ligaments and joints of your pelvis.
- Visit a massage therapist who is prenatal certified.
- Walk or do prenatal yoga.
- Take a dip in the pool to alleviate downward pressure on the pelvis.
- Spend time in the Cat-Cow yoga position every day (10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the evening is a great start).
- When you sit, make sure you keep both feet on the floor, with your knees lower than your belly.
If you’re a few weeks away from delivery, take a deep breath and try to relax. There’s still time for your baby to turn head down.
In the meantime, your doctor or midwife will likely explain the options available to turn the baby. If you have questions about methods your caregiver doesn’t mention, make sure to ask.
Regardless of which techniques you decide to try, you should always get clearance from your provider before moving forward.