Can a chiropractor turn a breech baby?
As the end of pregnancy approaches, women often worry about the position the baby is in. Most babies are cephalic, meaning they are lying with their bottom up and their head down. Some babies are breech, with their head up and either their bottom or feet as the presenting part, closest to the birth canal. While this position is common earlier in pregnancy, by 34 weeks only about 7% of babies are breech. If a baby is breech when a woman goes into labour then the labour can be more difficult and potentially dangerous for both the baby and the mother. Many doctors and midwives encourage a caesarean delivery if a baby is breech in labour because of these increased risks. Chiropractic care can help reduce your chances of having a breech baby by delivery day, but it's important to understand how and what the limitations are.
At the end of pregnancy, it's common for a woman's pelvis to be unbalanced and misaligned. Considering how pregnancy affects the body this is understandable! The extra weight being carried in her uterus exaggerates the lordosis or curve of her lower back. Hormonal changes lead to soft tissues being relaxed throughout the body, but especially in the pelvis. As a woman adjusts to this they may change their posture slightly, leading to further changes in alignment.
This poor alignment and balance can lead to intrauterine constraint. This means that the increased tension in muscles and tendons within the spine and pelvis are restricting the size and shape of the uterus, making it more difficult for the baby to get into the optimal position for labour.
In addition to general chiropractic services throughout pregnancy, there is a particular technique known to encourage breech babies to turn head down. This is called the Webster Technique. A chiropractor will use the Webster Technique to adjust the sacroiliac joint, aiming to return balance and alignment to the pelvis. This, in turn, will reduce intrauterine constraint and allow the muscles, tendons and ligaments within the pelvis to fully relax.
It's important to understand that the Webster Technique or any other treatment your chiropractor provides will not actually turn the baby. However, by treating sacral subluxations and allowing your uterine muscle to function normally, chiropractic care will remove restraints that may be stopping the baby from turning. A 2002 study found that only 9% of babies remained breech after their mothers had the Webster Technique performed. By treating the mother the baby is able to move and turn more freely. There may be other reasons why a baby is breech such as the amount of fluid within the uterus, the mother's medical history and the baby's health. For this reason, no technique will have a perfect success rate, but the Webster Technique is an excellent place to start.
Not all women are suitable candidates for the Webster Technique, so it's important to discuss your full history with your chiropractor. It's also a good idea to seek chiropractic services early in a pregnancy so that any subluxations can be detected early before they lead to significant balance problems within the body.