I started to write my usual pregnancy diary for this week and the post quickly turned into something else altogether. My ECV (external cephalic version, the turning process of a breech baby) experience. I have so much to say on this topic that I just couldn’t cram it into a weekly post, it deserves a post of its own.
Let me start by saying by no means am I a medical professional and undertaking a procedure like an ECV is a decision only you can make. This post isn’t to try and sway anyone in a particular direction, only you can decide what is right for you and your baby, it’s simply to provide a personal experience.
My ECV Story
On Monday we had our presentation scan. We have been told the baby was breech since 30 weeks and the scan confirmed that the baby was actually transverse (sideways). My midwife had said we would have the scan and be called back in a few days to discuss options with a consultant but that’s not what happened. Instead we were given 1 piece of paper explaining what an ECV was (external cephalic version, the turning process for breech/transverse babies, a doctor will try and turn the baby from outside your stomach) and sent to see a doctor straight away.
This Doctor ran through the options which were:
- Have an ECV
- Book a planned C Section
A natural birth is not in option with a transverse baby.
He also ran through the outcomes of an ECV which are:
- It might not work and will have to have to have a planned C Section
- It might work and can go on to have a natural birth
- It might distress the baby so much that I’ll be rushed for an emergency C Section
As you can imagine this was a lot to process in a short space of time. And then the doctor said…”You have 5 minutes to decide what you want to do!”
Umm thanks mate! 5 minutes to make such a big decision is ridiculous. I found the whole experience so overwhelming. 1 fact sheet stating 1 in 200 babies need to be deliver immediately after an ECV due to distress is not enough information to make an informed decision. I’m not ashamed to say here that I got a bit upset. The thought of doing something that may cause the baby to be born 3 weeks early is terrifying. The thought of having a planned C Section is also pretty terrifying to me.
My initial concerns with having an ECV was the pain, I had no idea it could cause the baby distress and lead to an early delivery.
Luckily a lovely midwife came in the room around 10 minutes later and chatted to us for a while, sharing her experiences with ECV’s and reassuring us that in 34 years she had never seen anyone rushed to theatre.
We decided to book the appointment to buy us some time to do some research at home and cancel it if we changed our minds.
Of course, the appointment was made for 9am the next day! Not much time bought.
In the end, after talking to family and friends and doing a lot of online research we decided to go ahead with the ECV. That night we solemnly packed a bag for the baby knowing that even the newborn clothes would swamp it if it was born tomorrow. The sonographer had estimated the weight at 5lb 8oz which is a good weight but still too small for my liking. I want you in there for a couple more weeks yet baby!
So this morning we dropped Mollie off to school and headed to the hospital. We were given a bed which I refused to even sit on, as if commiting to sitting on a bed might somehow lead to me having to stay there. I left mine and the baby’s bags in the car. I was told there were some student midwife’s who had never seen an ECV before and asked if I minded them watching. I said yes, as much as I didn’t want an audience, everyone needs to learn. We were then taken down into the room.
I was introduced to 2 doctors plus there were 2 student midwives there.
The baby’s heart rate was monitored for half hour to get an idea of its base rate. I was given a muscle relaxant injection into my thigh and then we were ready to go.
I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous by this point. Nervous it was going to hurt and scared something was going to go wrong. They tilted the bed backwards so my head was lower than my feet. This was really good as it meant I couldn’t really see what they were doing to me. They scanned my stomach to see where the baby was, the head was still up by the top of my bump. I closed my eyes and gripped Mike’s hand and they started trying to turn the baby.
When I had asked people/researched what this was going to feel like, the word uncomfortable came up a lot. Now I know why. It was painful at times but mostly just really uncomfortable. When you are pregnant your gut instinct is to protect your bump and here a doctor was knelt on the bed gripping and pushing mine trying to rotate the baby inside. It’s the most unnatural feeling in the world, I just wanted to push them off me.
They did this for what felt like ages but was really just a few minutes. Then scanned again. The baby had moved slightly to the side. Great. The doctors swapped over and gave it a second try, this time even harder than before. I took slow long breathes to cope with the pain but could feel myself tensing up. It’s so hard to relax when your bump is being squeezed and pushed.
After the second attempt they said the baby was sideways. Since the baby had already been sideways the day before by itself I wasn’t filled with any hope it was working. I was asked if I wanted to try again or offered to come back another day and try. It was now or never for me, once I went home there was no way I was coming back for round 2. I agreed to one more try but the next one didn’t work either.
We decided to stop. It just wasn’t working and I was worried about distressing the baby even though they were scanning constantly and could see everything was fine.
I decided that was enough for me and I wouldn’t be coming back to try again. They explained the next step was to book a planned C Section and I agreed this was what I wanted to do.
We clearly have a stubborn baby here. It may turn on its own before the date of the Section, it may not. I gave it a good try and feel like I’ve done what I can to help it turn. I was hoping to avoid a Section for several reasons including the longer recovery time and general fear of surgery but if it’s the safest option for the baby then so be it. And let’s be fair, a vaginal birth doesn’t come without its own risks.
When it comes to pregnancy and birth very little aspects do you have any control over. Things may not turn out how you wished but all that really matters is that the baby is brought safely into the world as least traumatically as possible.
I wanted to share my ECV story even though it was unsuccessful, just to give people an idea of what they are likely to experience if they decide to have one. When I was researching the topic online I could only find short Mumsnet posts and medical advice. I really wanted to provide a detailed experience and I hope that’s what I’ve done here.
Obviously I am not a medical professional and can only share with you my own personal experience. I’m sure things differ hospital to hospital and everyone’s experience will be different.
My advice is you are facing the option of an ECV would be:
- Do your own research including talking to medical professionals
- Be aware of the risks and make sure you feel comfortable with them
- Know that you can stop at any time. You are the boss of your own body, if at any point you feel like you need to stop don’t be scared to say so
- Ask as many questions as you like. There’s no such thing as a stupid question!
If you have anything else you want to know just ask away in the comments!
Until next time