Every mum wants an empowering birth, and second-time mum Claire Mann is no different. As soon as she learned her son was breech, Claire began carefully planning for the birth she wanted.
Her pregnancy was complicated, with roadblocks at every turn, yet the Victorian mum was determined to research every possibility, with the hope of repeating the magical birth she’d had with her first baby.
Claire shared her journey to a natural breech birth with Mum’s Grapevine.
A complicated pregnancy
Claire knew from early into her second pregnancy that her little one was in a breech position. At 37 weeks, doctors attempted an External Cephalic Version (ECV) to help move baby into position, but it was unsuccessful.
“I had GDM (Gestational Diabetes Mellitus) and also a marginal attachment of the placenta,” Claire told Mum’s Grapevine. “Three obstetricians at various appointments discussed caesarean options with me and the risks of both breech birth and caesarean.
“I really wanted to attempt a breech birth due to having had a fabulous natural birth of our daughter two years ago. I was also keen to avoid the recovery time needed for a caesarean.”
Claire then set about educating herself on breech births. “I read everything available, researched, and spoke to several people about breech birth. I decided to attempt a breech delivery, knowing that it was very likely that I would end up having an emergency c-section.”
A ‘rockstar’ birth
Claire was exploring Melbourne’s Scienceworks Museum on Friday, 12 February, 2021, when her water broke at 11.30am. Not sure if it was really the start of labour, she carried on with her day.
“At 3:30pm I had more leaking and started to suspect that my waters had broken and that I would need to call the hospital and I knew they would keep me in. I asked my parents to come and visit as lockdown was due to start at 11:59pm that night. When they arrived I told them what I thought was happening and it was likely they would need to take our daughter with them for the night.
“I called the hospital and they told me to come in, come prepared to stay until baby was born. I went into the hospital about 6pm, was accessed, and confirmed that waters had broken. No contractions had started and there wasn’t a bed for me just yet so was told to go for a walk, grab some dinner and they will call me soon when the bed was ready. By 8pm we were back in the hospital and I was in an assessment room. I got comfy and at the suggestion of our midwife went to find the stairs in the hospital which I walked up and down for the next hour. I came back to the room and used an exercise ball and just kept moving in the hopes of starting labour.
“Nothing happened. They put off doing an internal examination as I hadn’t started contractions and they wanted to avoid any infection especially as I had broken my membranes so long ago and wasn’t on any antibiotics.
As midnight approached we asked if there was a bed my husband could sleep on, there wasn’t, so just before 1am he headed home knowing I would call if anything started. We thought that at 11:30am on the Saturday nothing would still have happened, they would talk to me about doing a c-section.
“At 4:30am I woke to two big thuds and big gushes of water. I headed to the toilet and continued to leak fluid. I got back to bed and buzzed for the midwife who entered to me having my first contractions. They weren’t too bad and I just breathed through them. Hoping that things were kicking off she inserted a cannula, took bloods, and started antibiotic IV. They did an internal and I was 4cm.
“I called my husband at 5am and told him I was in labour and that he should come in. Unfortunately, he has narcolepsy and was still feeling the effects of his medication. So he waited at home for a while before he drove. By 6am I was in the birthing suite feeling some very intense contractions. I used the exercise ball and lent on the bed for support. The midwives were great, they gave me a little gas which didn’t really work for me, and held a heat pack on my back which was amazing. The ball stopped being helpful by about 6:20 and I got on the bed as I was starting to get back pain and felt a little like I had to use the bathroom.
“I asked for an epidural. They started to organise one, but the blood they had previously taken had somehow been lost. So they took more and rushed it though. Someone talked me through all the necessary info for an epidural in preparation for the blood work coming back so they could do it straight away. The midwife wanted to do an internal check at this point as she was starting to think I was feeling the need to push. She told me I was 5cm. I couldn’t believe that was all.
“At this point I started to lose my mind, I actually started freaking out and asking for that epidural to be done right now. Then I really really lost my mind, my husband wasn’t there and I started telling anyone who would listen that I had to poo. I actually felt like I was going to do it all over the bed. I was horrified and there was going to be nothing I could do to stop it. I felt something go, and I was pushing even though I was trying not to. The midwife looked down and told me that the baby was coming out and he had done a poo, not me.
“It was game on, I had gone from 5cm to 10cm in mere minutes and regardless of what I wanted, my body was pushing. The room filled with people and I was in absolute agony. I was telling the midwife that I couldn’t do this without pain meds and she promptly told me that I could and that I was going to. It was all happening so fast. With my daughter who was born just over two years ago it was so civilised, I had had an epidural, things were quiet and calm and everything went to plan. This guy had other ideas. He was breech and was coming out in a big hurry.
“The pain was something out of this world. I was being split apart. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t comprehend, and could barely hear what people were telling me. I knew that at any point I could be wheeled down the hallway and cut open in a desperate bid to get the little fella out.
“My husband arrived at 7am and he started to encourage me and also film what was happening. The first thing he saw was baby’s bottom and scrotum hanging out of me. I was pushing with each contraction but that wasn’t enough. They couldn’t get a good read on his heart and I could see worried looks around the room. I constantly asked if we were worried. They told me they hadn’t had a good read on his heart in six minutes. They needed me to push even without contractions.
“His bottom was followed by his legs. They called a code and things were serious, it was now that I could see if he didn’t come out right now things could get very bad. They were able to pull out one arm, then two. I pushed twice more using every fibre of my being and he was on my chest, pale and limp with legs in very strange positions at 7:06am. They cut the cord and whisked him away to the other side of the room. I heard them say his heart was good but he needed resuscitation to get him breathing. He was ok after his first minute and breathing by himself but that was a very long minute. APGARs at five and 10 minutes were much better and then he was on my chest having his first cuddle and feed.
“We stayed in hospital for one night. He had a slight bruise on one buttock and a hydrocele. We will follow up in six weeks for a hip ultrasound as breech babies are more at risk for dysplasia, although the paediatrician said they felt really good in hospital.
“He has had a little mucus come up, but we were told that is very common for breech babies and also c-section babies as they don’t get the mucus squeezed out of them in birth like a cephalic vaginal birth does. In hospital I felt a little like a rockstar as people would meet me they would find out I was the one who had a breech birth and they would get all excited and start asking me questions and telling me how rare they are.”
Claire says her pregnancy and birth were a learning process, and advises other mums in the same situation to do their research.
“Doctors are very risk-averse and a lot of skill has been lost in breech particularly in Victoria. Midwives were super supportive and very keen to attempt breech birth. I met midwives and paediatricians from the UK and Ireland that had much more experience than those from Victoria.
“Our bodies are amazing and we should listen to them much more than we do. Our care teams are made up of so much knowledge and experience but at the end of the day, you have to take all that and make the right choice for you. I found that because I was very well informed and could articulate this to my team, they were supportive of my choice and knew I would listen to them and would do what was necessary if all the stars didn’t align for the breech birth I wanted.”
What is a breech birth?
A breech presentation happens when baby is laying bottom first or feet first, rather than head first. According to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, it’s really common for bub to be in a breech position in early pregnancy. This usually changes by the time it’s time to birth, but about three in every 100 babies remain breech close to their due date.
A breech baby may be complete, footling or frank, and a breech presentation is more common if you have:
- a low-lying placenta
- lax muscles of the uterus (usually due to having a number of babies)
- too much, or too little, amniotic fluid (waters) around the baby
- an uncommon shape of the uterus, or large fibroids
- previous breech presentation
According to RANZCOG, a breech presentation at birth means a greater chance of a complicated vaginal birth or c-section.
What is External Cephalic Version (EVC)?
If you reach 36 weeks of pregnancy and bub is still breech, you may be offered EVC. It’s a procedure to turn the baby to a head-first position. It’s done by applying gentle pressure to your tummy, and basically try and get bub to do a somersault in the uterus.
Read next …
We’ve featured other inspiring breech birth stories in these articles: