Head up, Head Down

3:02 PM

36 weeks
  Every pregnancy is different, they say. Just as every child is different. 
My personal experience with pregnancy is that each of mine aren't really that different from each other.
Except that with each subsequent pregnancy, the degree of misery I've experienced in my first trimester has increased exponentially. 

The thing that threw me for a loop this pregnancy was that around week 32, when the baby should start thinking about turning head down, this one didn't. At week 32, at the recommendation of my midwife, I began religiously doing the five exercises she advises to keep the pelvic bones loose, open and baby-head friendly. Those exercises are as follows: 

1) The cat/cow maneuver (a yoga move)
2) Drawing figure 8's with my hips while on hands/knees
3) Figure 8s with hips while standing
4) squats and
5) lunges.

36 weeks - front view
As the weeks clicked by and I could tell this baby was still head up, although extremely active, I started getting nervous. Obviously, as the baby gets bigger, the amount of room it has to move about lessens and it becomes more likely to stick in whatever position it is in.

I have also learned from my midwives that with each subsequent pregnancy, it's more common for a baby to remain head-up longer, simply because there's more room in the uterus. The uterus has been here before and as a result, the baby just can move about more, and later. Most midwives take a proactive approach beginning around week 32 (with hip opening exercises, etc) and ramp up the interventions as the due date approaches.

As a side note, one main difference between care from a midwife versus an obstetrician is that midwives do lots of Leopold's maneuvers, which is the process of manually determining the baby's position in the uterus. Most OBs do very little of this. Most midwives do this as soon as the baby is big enough to feel. And at each visit, they keep a record of how the baby is positioned and whether that changes, etc. 

the actual 36 week belly
A few weeks ago, I got really nervous. I could feel a little ball of a head up under my ribs, and although I would wake up in the middle of the night to feel that ball of a head at a 3:00 or 9:00 position, and occasionally at a 5:00 position, every morning it would pop back up to 12:00. Grrr. 

I found a website called Spinningbabies.com, which is all about things you can do to help a baby get into optimal positioning for birth. Turning posterior babies anterior...turning breech babies head down...
It was extremely informative and with the ok of my midwife, I started implementing more of those interventions:

Elephant walking, inversions on an ironing board, headstands in the pool, continuing my daily swims, elevated hip positions...on top of my regular visits to my chiropractor which is a highly recommended thing for all pregnant woman. Misalignments in your pelvic and hip bones can contribute to posterior babies and breech babies. Just an FYI.

I should not leave out here that first and foremost, I've been praying that God would position this baby properly for a natural delivery. A c-section was/is the last thing I wanted.

In the world of breech babies, there is a timeline for taking action. 
About week 32, you begin (or continue) all your hip-opening activities.
Between weeks 34-35, there is something called Moxibustion which has statistically proven to be highly effective at turning breech babies.
If at week 37, baby is still breech, you typically get an ultrasound to determine baby position, location of the placenta and then you attempt to manually turn the baby. This is called External Cephalic Version, and it happens to be something my midwife is adept at. Look it up on youtube sometime....it's kind of crazy to watch it being done. 

Anyway, about a week ago, I kept coming across the whole Moxibustion thing. It was something I'd vaguely heard of, but didn't know much about. It's an acupuncture treatment, minus the needles.  It involves burning a stick (like an incense cigar) of moxa (mugwort root) just to the outside of your pinkie toes, pointing the heat at a specific spot (Bladder 67) which has been proven to impact the baby's movement in the uterus. Now, I could have gone to an acupuncturist, but really didn't want to pay for a visit, so I researched moxibustion on my own and ended up buying some moxa sticks on Amazon. They're really inexpensive! Studies indicate moxibustion has a 75% effectiveness rate of turning a breech baby compared to a 50% rate of babies turning on their own. Not a bad stat. And more importantly, it was non-invasive and couldn't hurt anything.

A week ago Friday, my moxa sticks arrived and that evening, Kyle became my Moxa Man! I got in a comfy position on our bed and made sure the kids wouldn't accidentally bump Kyle and scorch my poor pinkie toes. Then he lit the moxa stick, using a candle, and alternated holding the stick at the outside edge of each of my pinkie toes for 5 minutes at a time, for a total of 20 minutes. This is gonna sound so weird, but the minute he got the stick close enough to my toe to feel the heat, the baby literally lurched. It continued to squirm and wiggle over the 20 minutes. After that, I went to bed. 

They recommend you use the moxa sticks before bed because if a baby is going to turn, it's more likely to do so while you're sleeping.  Ha! That night, the baby was so active it was almost impossible to sleep at all.  I kid you not. The baby moved ALL NIGHT LONG.  I couldn't say that I felt it had turned or anything...it just moved a lot. A whole lot.

We continued the moxibustion treatment Saturday night and Sunday night and I had my 36 week home visit with my midwives on Monday. I also had my 36 week required visit with a nurse practitioner midwife that same morning. The NP couldn't say for certain, but she was pretty confident she was feeling a head down baby. Later that afternoon at my home visit, my other three midwives palpated the dickens out of my belly and all of them concurred that the baby was head down. I can't tell you the relief I felt hearing them all agree on this matter. I still need to be proactive in helping the baby find that happy spot and engage in the pelvic bones, but just not feeling that distinctly round little head up by my ribs is a HUGE weight off my shoulders.

So, if you're ever in a position where you have a breech baby, or know someone who does, reassure them that there is a whole range of things that you can do to promote turning.  There are circumstances where the baby just won't or can't turn and a C-section is, unfortunately (in this state anyway) unavoidable. But for the most part, there are options and possibilities and you just never know what might be the catalyst. I'd start with prayer and an active recruitment of prayer warriors.  And in addition, keep an open mind to proven techniques.  Was it moxibustion in our case? Hard to say....but I'm definitely not the skeptic I once was.  

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  1. That is totally wild! But, I am so glad that it seemed to help!