Justifying to a seven-year-old Anubis why I’m going to Germany for my week off – and missing mothers’ day, helped crystallise objectives and motivation for this busman’s holiday* (*a form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work). “I’m going to see some babies be born bottom-first.” “Don’t you see that […]
(See the Catalan version of this article below …)
This week (21-22 March 2017), the Breech Birth Network was in the beautiful city of Barcelona, at the invitation of the obstetricians and midwives of Hospital Sant Pau. Our team expanded for the occasion! Midwife Maria Segura translated all of our teaching slides into Catalan. And Cardiff-based midwife Carmen Rubio ensured everyone had an opportunity to receive hands-on help when practising manoeuvres to assist women birthing in upright positions.
I love studying and teaching physiological breech birth most because when a health professional learns how breech works, they learn how all birth works. Despite its apparent applicability for only a small proportion of the total population, skill in the art of facilitating breech birth resonates throughout a professional’s entire birth practice, their collaborative work with colleagues and within institutions.
Our experience in Barcelona made this clear. Hospital Sant Pau is in a period of transition, trying to increase the rates of normal birth. Breech birth is a part of that, but midwives are also working to establish the first midwifery-led birth centre in Catalunya. The hospital has recently established a new guideline enabling obstetricians to support physiological breech birth, including women who choose to birth without an epidural. To enable women to have a choice of pain relief for physiological birth without epidural, the hospital team are considering offering nitrous oxide (Entonox) for the first time. And for some of those attending this week’s training, our videos were their first exposure to women birthing in a kneeling position. One obstetrician suggested they could prepare for the change in breech practice by facilitating kneeling positions for cephalic births!
Dr Arianna Bonato, one of the external OB-GYNs attending the training, told me she feels that a breech birth is the most beautiful birth to see, because the physiology is so visible. I agree! This visibility makes possible learning about physiological birth in general within the microcosm of breech.
The way that a neurologically intact baby assists his own birth, the intuitive movements of a mother who feels safe and uninhibited, and the consequences of interventions in the mother-baby dance, to facilitate or disrupt, are all much more exposed. As Carmen Rubio reminded me, breech births demand calm wisdom in the birthing space like no other.
I have no doubt Hospital Sant Pau’s open-minded and forward-thinking approach will attract many more women to birth in this hospital, and that their midwifery unit will also thrive when it is opened. A blessing for the women of Barcelona. I look forward to staying in touch and learning from their experience of implementing these new practices!
Thank you to Consultant Obstetrician Ma Carmen Medina Mallen, and Maria Segura, for their work in organising the Breech Birth Network training this week. Hospital Sant Pau will be auditing their outcomes for term breech presentation over the next year, as part of our international evaluation of Physiological Breech Birth training.
Many thanks to midwives Carmen Rubio and Maria Segura for the translation of this blog into Catalan!
Aquesta setmana (21-22 de Març 2017), la Xarxa pel Part de Natges va estar a la bonica Ciutat de Barcelona, com a invitació dels ginecòlegs i llevadores de l’Hospital de Sant Pau. El nostre equip va créixer per l’ocasió! La llevadora Maria Segura va traduir totes les diapositives de la sessió al català i la llevadora Carmen Rubio, amb seu a Cardiff, va garantir que tothom pogués tenir l’oportunitat de rebre ajuda en la pràctica de les maniobres per assistir les dones que vulguin donar a llum en posicions verticals.
M’agrada estudiar i ensenyar el part de natges de manera fisiològica, sobretot, perquè quan els professionals aprenen el funcionament d’aquest, també ho fan sobre els fonaments de donar a llum. Encara que la seva aparent aplicació sigui per una petita proporció de la població, l’habilitat en l’art de facilitar els naixements de natges ressona a través de tota la pràctica professional, així com a la feina de col·laboració entre companys i al conjunt de les seves institucions.
La nostra experiència a Barcelona ho va deixar ben clar. L’Hospital està a un període de transició, intentant incrementar les xifres del part natural. El part de natges forma part d’això, però les llevadores, a més, estan treballant en la línia de crear la primera casa de naixements pública a Catalunya. L’Hospital ha establert recentment un nou protocol que permet als obstetres reconsiderar el part de natges de forma fisiològica, incloent-hi la voluntat de les dones que vulguin donar a llum sense epidural. A més, l’equip de l’Hospital està en vies d’introduir l’Òxid Nitrós (Entonox) per primera vegada, com un altre recurs d’analgèsia per les usuàries de part. Per alguns dels participants a la formació, va ser la seva primera vegada en veure, a través dels vídeos, a dones donant a llum en posició vertical. Una de les ginecòlogues va suggerir que es podrien preparar pel canvi en la pràctica de l’atenció al part facilitant més activament la posició vertical als naixements dels nadons que es troben en presentació cefàlica.
La Dr. Arianna B. una de les obstetres/ginecòlogues que va atendre la formació, em va dir que sentia que el naixement de natges és molt bonic d’observar, perquè en ell es pot veure clarament la fisiologia del part. I estic d’acord! Aquesta claredat és la que ha permès aprendre del part fisiològic en general des del microcosmos de les natges.
La forma en què un nadó neurològicament sa assisteix el seu propi naixement, els moviments que intuïtivament fa la mare quan se sent segura i desinhibida, i quines són les conseqüències de facilitar o interrompre la dansa entre mare i fill són molt clarament exposades. Com la Carmen Rubio em va recordar, el part de natges demana com cap altre, la saviesa calmada de l’espai en el qual es dóna a llum.
No tinc cap dubte que la ment oberta i de pensament avançat de l’Hospital de Sant Pau atraurà moltes més dones a aquest Hospital i que la seva Casa de Naixements serà també popular quan l’obrin. Una benedicció per les dones de Barcelona. Estic desitjant estar en contacte i aprendre de l’experiència en la implementació d’aquestes noves pràctiques.
Moltes gràcies als membres de l’equip obstètric, la Ma Carmen Medina Mallen i a Maria Segura, pel seu esforç organitzant la formació de la Xarxa pel Part de Natges. L’Hospital de Sant Pau auditarà durant l’any vinent els resultats dels parts en presentació de natges com a part de la nostra avaluació internacional respecte la formació del Naixement Fisiològic de Natges.
— Shawn, Carmen & Maria
In Physiological Breech Birth training, we teach breech practice according to the consensus statements developed with experienced professionals in Principles of Physiological Breech Birth Practice (Walker, Scamell & Parker, 2016), including:
Care providers should not disturb women’s spontaneous movements in an otherwise normally progressing breech birth.
Mother-led positioning offers the greatest physiological advantages.
Sometimes maternal-led positioning is most conducive; sometimes judicious guidance is appropriate, especially to help resolve delay.
When facilitating a physiological breech birth, care providers proactively use maternal position (or change in position) to promote normal descent.
The pictures below demonstrate asymmetrical maternal movement in a normal breech birth, in which the mother assumes an upright, kneeling position, with freedom to move her torso up and down as she feels the need. Study of effective, spontaneous maternal movements during successful breech births teaches professionals about all normal birth. Instinctive maternal movement can be read as purposeful and meaningful, in light of radiological evidence of changes in pelvic diameters (Reitter et al, 2014) — rather than counter-productive and needing professional interruption or guidance.
In this picture series, the mother spontaneously lifts one of her legs into an asymmetrical, ‘running start’ position. If a professional detects a slight delay in descent, it may be appropriate to suggest a change of position by raising one leg or the other, as a first-line intervention, a ‘maternal manoeuvre,’ before hands-on intervention. Often a change in maternal position, or rhythmic maternal movement (“give it a wiggle”) will prompt spontaneous descent to resume.
Thank you to the mother, who gave permission for her birth photos to be used for educational purposes; and to her family and midwives. One of these images appeared in the article, Unexpected Breech: What can midwives do?, in The Practising Midwife.
The new RCOG Management of Breech Presentation guideline has been published today. This guideline substantially revises recommendations in the previous version, published in 2006. If followed, it will undoubtedly improve women’s access to and experience of breech care. Below I will highlight two of the new guideline’s game-changing recommendations, and then raise two key questions concerning areas of on-going exploration.
Reference: Impey LWM, Murphy DJ, Griffiths M, Penna LK on behalf of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Management of Breech Presentation. BJOG 2017; DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.14465.
Counselling (Section 4.1)
The guideline offers specific recommendations around counselling, following the summary presented by lead author Mr Lawrence Impey at the RCOG Breech Conference in 2014. When discussing perinatal mortality, rather than focusing on the dichotomy between elective caesarean section at 39 weeks (0.5/1000) and planned breech birth (2.0/1000), the guidelines also recommend women consider these figures in light of those for planned cephalic birth (1.0/1000).
— Oli Silverwood-Cope (@olvindaRM) March 17, 2017
This is important. If we follow the logic that has dominated breech care for the last 17 years – elective CS for all because it reduces perinatal mortality – we would need to apply this to planned cephalic births as well. The truth is always somewhere in between. All childbirth options carry benefits as well as risks, and women should be supported to apply their own values to decision-making, rather than feel obligated to adopt uniform recommendations arising from contemporary risk-focused discourse. This new guideline is much clearer about the obligation of health care professionals to present women with genuine breech childbirth options.
Maternal birth position (Section 6.7)
The guideline has changed from recommending lithotomy birth position to the following: “Either a semi-recumbent or an all-fours position may be adopted for delivery and should depend on maternal preference and the experience of the attendant.” This will be joyously welcomed by midwives and obstetricians who have been gradually incorporating upright breech methods into clinical skills training for some time, and the women who have been insisting on the freedom to choose their own birthing position.
— Oli Silverwood-Cope (@olvindaRM) March 18, 2017
But as the explanatory notes indicate, “The principle difficulty with an all-fours position is when manoeuvres are required. Most obstetricians are more familiar with performing these in a difficult breech birth with the woman in the dorsal position.” This begs the question of how we will overcome the difficulty resulting from lack of obstetric familiarity with performing manoeuvres when women are in upright, particularly kneeling positions. Our recently published evaluation of the Breech Birth Network Physiological Breech Birth training days reported that one of the greatest concerns expressed by participants in the workshops was lack of involvement and collaboration from obstetric colleagues, whom they had difficulty convincing to attend the training in order to learn effective manoeuvres. Hopefully changes in our national guideline will prompt more interest.
Question #1: What does it mean to be ‘skilled’ in breech birth birth?
The word ‘skilled’ recurs 15 times in the new RCOG breech guideline. Variations include: ‘skilled intrapartum care,’ ‘skilled birth attendant(s),’ ‘skilled supervision,’ ‘skilled attendant(s),’ ‘operator skilled in vaginal breech delivery,’ ‘skilled support,’ ‘skilled personnel.’ Each reference suggests skill is a key ingredient of safe vaginal birth.
What does it mean to be ‘skilled’ in vaginal breech birth? Is it a quality possessed by individuals, or institutions, or both? How is skill assessed? How is it maintained?
The danger with lack of definition regarding breech skill is that by default it will be judged in retrospect. A good outcome occurs = the attendants were skilled. A bad outcome occurs = the attendants lacked skill and were overconfident in assessment of their own competence. A health professional attends four spontaneous breech births which do not require intervention = they are now perceived as ‘skilled.’
The guideline points to evidence from the PREMODA study, in which good outcomes were achieved in a study with senior obstetrician presence in 92.3% of cases. Association is not causation, but we need to take seriously the value the PREMODA researchers placed on this as a key to their success. In a UK context, or elsewhere, does that mean we can (or should?) reasonably expect all senior obstetricians to be ‘skilled’ at vaginal breech birth? What if the senior obstetrician does not feel ‘skilled’ her/himself? What if a midwife is the most experience person available to attend a breech birth?
The new RCOG guideline further recommends: “Units with limited access to skilled personnel should inform women that vaginal breech birth is likely to be associated with greater risk and offer antenatal referral to a unit where skill levels and experience are greater.” And: “All maternity units must be able to provide skilled supervision for vaginal breech births where a woman is admitted in advanced labour and protocols for this eventuality should be developed.” How will all maternity units be able to provide skilled supervision for undiagnosed breech births, if some of them will also need to be up front about their lack of skill to support planned breech births?
The new guideline recommends that “simulation equipment should be used to rehearse the skills that are needed during vaginal breech birth by all doctors and midwives.” The extent to which such simulation training will result in skill development in settings where skills have become depleted over the last 20-30 years is unclear. Our recent systematic review highlights the lack of evidence regarding the ability of standard training programmes to improve outcomes, and suggests that teaching vaginal breech birth as part of an obstetric emergencies course may actually reduce the chances that providers will actually attend breech births (Walker, Breslin, Scamell and Parker, 2017).
— Oli Silverwood-Cope (@olvindaRM) March 18, 2017
The development of professional competence to facilitate breech births is a complex matter to which institutions may like to pay closer attention as they develop the ‘routine vaginal breech delivery service’ envisioned by the new guideline. Some of this complexity is explored in these two papers involving research with experienced practitioners: Standards for maternity care professionals attending planned upright breech births and Principles of physiological breech birth practice.
Question #2: What is a footling presentation?
Despite the acknowledged paucity of evidence regarding factors that increase the risks of vaginal breech birth, ‘footling presentation’ remains a clinical indication for advising women that the risks associated with vaginal breech birth are likely to be independently increased. Unfortunately, neither the guideline nor generally available breech literature provides a clear definition of what this means, nor is it likely that a similar definition has been used among disparate studies looking at outcomes associated with variations of breech presentation.
The danger with this lack of definition is that in many complete and incomplete breech presentations, where one or both legs are flexed, one or more feet will be palpable on vaginal examination. This is especially the case at advanced dilatation, when legs will often slip further down due to the increased space in the sacral cavity, into which the breech has also descended. And of course in advanced labour, the dangers of performing a caesarean section for a dubious indication are increased. It has never made sense to me to perform a caesarean section at advanced dilatation because one might need to perform a caesarean section! Where skill levels are minimal and practitioners are not taught to locate the sacrum as the denominator, many complete and/or incomplete breech presentations will be labelled ‘footling.’
In my practice, I follow the nomenclature suggested by Susanne Albrechtsen (unfortunately only available in Norwegian): a footling breech is one in which both feet present first, and the fetal pelvis is disengaged, above the pelvic brim. A fetus whose pelvis is engaged with one or more feet palpable alongside is a flexed breech (complete/incomplete).
We will await more professional debate and actual evidence concerning the definition of ‘footling breech’ and its association with fetal outcomes. Perhaps now that the new RCOG is more supportive of vaginal breech birth, more professionals will feel experienced enough to engage in discussions which will move our knowledge base forward and further increase the safety of breech birth.
This week, we’ve been doing our breech thing in Wales. First Powys, at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, and then on to Aberystwyth to deliver our RCM-approved Physiological Breech Birth study day. I had some help to deliver the training in Powys from a new member of the Breech Birth Network team: Emma Spillane, Lead Midwife for the Carmen Suite Birth Centre of St. George’s, London. Emma brings both breech and NHS leadership experience to the team and is a fantastic skills educator. Welcome, Emma!
Midwifery in Wales is a different kettle of fish to much of the rest of the UK. Powys has no obstetric unit, and care is entirely midwifery-led for women at low and moderate risk. Births take place at home or at a midwifery-led unit, unless the women travel to an obstetric centre out of choice or by referral. Improving skills to facilitate undiagnosed breech births, in settings where the transfer time may be well over an hour, was the priority for these midwives. The focus of our training is on using physiological principles (#giveitawiggle). But we also explored the potential for collaborative working across boundaries to provide continuity for women requesting a breech birth. Thank you to Lead Midwife Shelly Jones of the Powys Teaching Health Board for organising the day!
Aberystwyth is an obstetric unit, but at 600 births per year also maintains close ties with larger units nearby, especially Carmarthen. The guidelines around breech and ECV are currently being reviewed in this area, and the hope is that future guidelines will include more recent evidence around 1) support for informed choice of breech birth; 2) use of upright birthing positions; and 3) increased involvement of midwives in both physiological breech and ECV practice. A visible care pathway is needed in this sparsely populated area, where providing the full spectrum of care relies on close collaborative working between smaller and larger units. Thank you to Senior Midwife Rucha Eldridge of Bronglais Hospital/Ysbyty Bronglais for organising the study day! And thank you to Aber obstetrician Liliana Docan and clinical skills educator Nicole Gajlikowska for your enthusiasm and help with hands-on practice of upright manoeuvres.
Given the level of interest and the number of attendees from different areas of Wales and the English border, we expect Breech Birth Network will be returning soon. If you have breech experience and would like to become involved in teaching and leading change for breech within Wales, we would love to hear from you! We can lend our experience and fully evaluated course materials to your efforts. You can contact us using the form below.
Last week I visited the Academie Verloskunde in Amsterdam to provide a train-the-trainer workshop for midwifery lecturers. The four universities in the Netherlands work together to teach a consistent curriculum across the country. Incorporation of physiological breech birth training into that curriculum was inspired by last year’s Teach the Breech 1st Amsterdam Conference. I was honoured that lecturers travelled from as far away as Groningen and Maastricht to attend the training, so they have a common understanding of how physiological breech birth is taught. Many of them have significant experience teaching breech themselves, so we will continue to learn from each other.
The train-the-trainer workshop followed a similar format to our RCM-approved Breech Birth Network study days, but we kept the focus on the mechanisms and manoeuvres to enable the midwifery lecturers to understand the new methods thoroughly in order to teach them to students. Midwifery lecturers already have such a deep understanding of anatomy and physiology, and I have never had so many great questions from one audience! Amazing engagement.
The Netherlands is a hotbed of breech activity and debate, from researchers such as obstetrician Floortje Vlemmix and midwife Ageeth Rosman, and obstetricians like Leonie van Rheenen-Flach and midwives like Rebekka Visser. Vaginal breech births have continued to be facilitated throughout the Netherlands, albeit at a diminished rate this century. Because clinicians have maintained the skill, a shift to more physiological principles of facilitation is not so seismic. A recent case report indicates such a shift is in progress.
Thank you to lecturers Bahar Goodarzi and Merel Schoemaker for organising the workshop and seeing me safely to the other side of Amsterdam on my bike after the training! I look forward to working more closely with them to develop a physiological breech training programme, appropriate for the Dutch context, incorporating the existing skills and knowledge of the very experienced obstetricians and midwives of the Netherlands.
Wildschut, H. I. J., van Belzen-Slappendel, H. and Jans, S. (2017), The art of vaginal breech birth at term on all fours. Clin Case Rep. doi:10.1002/ccr3.808
To kick off the new year, Breech Birth Network are providing a study day in Norwich on 14 January 2017. If you’ve been wanting to encourage your obstetric colleagues or trainees to attend training, this will hit the spot. Our teaching team includes Dr Anke Reitter, FRCOG, Shawn Walker, RM, Victoria Cochrane, RM, and Mr Eamonn Breslin, MRCOG. Send your colleagues the link to our Eventbrite booking page, with a personal invitation! Or download a poster for your work environment.
This study day for obstetricians, midwives, paramedics and students will provide an engaging and interactive update on professional skills to facilitate physiological breech births, planned or unexpected. The study day would be especially useful for clinical skills teachers who want to include physiological breech methods in professional skills updates or student lessons, due to access to resources after the workshop. The focus is on collaborative, multi-professional working to improve the safety of vaginal breech birth using the skills of all maternity care professionals.
Training will include:
* A research update given by leading researchers in the field, including Dr Anke Reitter, FRCOG, IBCLC of Frankfurt
* Thorough theoretical and hands-on explanations of how breech babies journey through the maternal pelvis in a completely spontaneous birth (the breech mechanisms), enabling you to distinguish between normal progress and dystocia
* Hands-on simulation of complicated breech births and resolutions, using narratives and videos of real breech complications, to enable you to practice problem-solving in real time
* Models of breech care that work within modern maternity services
* An accompanying booklet containing handout versions of all of the slides and resources used in the training
* One year’s access to the on-line learning space following the training, to continue viewing and reflecting on birth videos (one per month) in a secure forum, and resources for sharing teaching with professionals in your practice community
* Lunch and refreshments
Registration begins at 8:30 for a 9:00 start
Hosted by the University of East Anglia University Midwifery Society. Profits from the study day will benefit the UEA Midwifery Society annual charity, the Orchid Project. See here for directions to the Edith Cavell Building, and to Norwich from further afield.
Feedback from study days in Christchurch & Auckland, October 2016:
My main concern was lack of training of staff leading them to believe that breech birth is an emergency. Our RMOs and MWs loved the day and I think feel more empowered. — SMO (Consultant Obstetrician, Senior Medical Officer)
Thank you so much, this has been the best study day ever! — Midwife
Information was clear and concise and well presented. Myths dispelled and physiological VBB and when to intervene very clearly explained. Methods to resolve when there are issues during delivery explained and demonstrated. Clear examples given with supporting video and photographs. Extremely valuable. — RMO (Registered Medical Officer)
Honest, real explanations. How to intervene in a timely manner as opposed to be hands off the breech. — Midwife
Thank you for a brilliant day of teaching and training. You covered a lot of material not taught as part of our training and it has been valuable. — RMO
Learning about manoeuvres to use in upright position, eg. shoulder press; visual components have been amazing, the broken down physiology of a breech birth. — Midwife
- Dr Anke Reitter, FRCOG
- Shawn Walker, RM, MA
- Victoria Cochrane, RM, MSc
- Mr Eamonn Breslin, MRCOG
Dr Anke Reitter, FRCOG, IBCLC, is the lead Consultant Obstetrician and Fetal-Maternal Medicine Specialist at Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt am Main. Although originally from Germany, she worked in India and the United States during her medical studies, and in England (including Liverpool) for 4 years during her obstetric training. After returning to Germany, she specialised in perinatal medicine. Prior to her move to Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen, where she initiated a new breech care pathway in a unit which had not supported breech births for years, Reitter practiced in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department at the University Hospital Frankfurt. A large observational study of the hands/knees breech births in Frankfurt is due to be published soon in the FIGO journal. Her special interests lie in breech, multiple pregnancies, high risk pregnancies and prenatal ultrasound. She is an internationally known speaker, teacher and researcher in several areas, but especially breech birth.
Shawn Walker, RM, MA is a UK midwife and PhD candidate researcher who studies how professionals learn skills to safely facilitate breech births. Clinically, she has worked in all midwifery settings – labour wards, freestanding and alongside birth centres, and home births. She led the development of a breech clinic pathway at the James Paget University Hospital (2012-2014), where she worked as a Breech Specialist Midwife. Her research focus on breech birth is part of a wider interest in complex normality – working with obstetric colleagues to enable women at moderate and high risk to birth and bond physiologically where possible. She currently works as a bank midwife at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in addition to periodic teaching, consultancy and breech support across the UK and internationally.
Victoria Cochrane, RM, MSc is the Consultant Midwife for Normality at the Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust. RM, MSc, Supervisor of Midwives. The majority of her clinical career has been working in and developing caseload and continuity models for women and their families in the community. She is deeply passionate about working with colleagues to support women making pregnancy and birth choices that sit outside of routine guidance. In her current role she works to support normality for women in all aspects of pregnancy and birth. Breech presentation became a special interest in 2009 when her daughter spent a few weeks in that position at the end of pregnancy; it’s amazing what one can learn in a short space of time when faced with challenging choices. This led to carrying out a cross-site service evaluation of the management of undiagnosed breech for her MSc dissertation.
Reitter, A., Daviss, B.-A., Bisits, A., Schollenberger, A., Vogl, T., Herrmann, E., Louwen, F., Zangos, S., 2014. Does pregnancy and/or shifting positions create more room in a woman’s pelvis?Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol. 211, 662.e1-662.e9.
Walker, S., Scamell, M., Parker, P., 2016. Standards for maternity care professionals attending planned upright breech births: A Delphi study. Midwifery 34, 7–14.
Walker, S., Scamell, M., Parker, P., 2016. Principles of physiological breech birth practice: a Delphi study. Midwifery 43, 1-6. FREE DOWNLOAD until 13 December.
Walker S, Cochrane V (2015) Unexpected breech: what can midwives do? The Practising Midwife, 18(10): 26-29
On Sunday, I am heading off to New Zealand (Christchurch & Auckland), where doctors and midwives are keen to learn more about physiological breech birth. From there it’s on to Sydney for the Normal Birth Conference 2016, where I’m excited to be giving an oral presentation about my research into how professionals develop skills to support breech birth. This is my first Normal Birth Conference, and I can’t wait to soak up the influence of so many birth researchers, including the team from Sydney currently publishing some groundbreaking papers about breech (more below). You can follow the conference on Twitter at #NormalBirth16.
I am often asked by students with a budding interest in breech birth and a requirement to write a dissertation, if I can recommend any good/important breech research papers. Why, yes, I can.
- The easy and Kuhnian answer to this question is: As it happens, I’ve published a good handful of peer-reviewed research and professional publications concerning breech presentation and breech birth! History may or may not deem them to be important, but if you want to know what I think is important, the reference lists will reveal all.
- Read the Term Breech Trial. Read all of it, including all of the follow-up studies written by people who weren’t named Hannah. Critique the research and form your own opinions about if/how it is relevant to contemporary practice. Until you have completed this task, resist the urge to claim publicly that the TBT has been ‘disproven’ or ‘debunked.’ It hasn’t. It is still a powerful force, and in fact contains many relevant lessons. Finally, read the critiques of the TBT.
- Now do the same for PREMODA, and if you are reading this in a few months’ time, the Frankfurt studies. At this point it will start to become interesting if you compare the reference lists of the different ‘camps’ of breech thought.
- When I was starting my PhD, I did a PubMed search on ‘breech presentation,’ which returned over 4000 results. I read all of the abstracts related to management of breech presentation, and all of the articles where the abstract looked interesting/relevant. It took me about 6 months. My PhD supervisors suggested this strategy might be ‘inefficient.’ Fair point. However, it’s one of the best things I ever did, as I feel confident that I have a broad understanding of research related to breech. However, I’ve muted this suggestion, as it may not fit the time constraints of the pre-registration students. It’s just to say — there is no shortcut if you want to thoroughly understand the research base in your area of practice.
- Finally, keep an eye on the group in Sydney who are currently publishing some very important papers. Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods, and focusing on the experiences of women and health care professionals, this team is producing research which complements the observational studies which have predominated in the past 15 years. Although each piece of research contains its own question, underlying them all, the wider questions are lurking: How did we get in such a muddle about breech? And how can we get out of it?
I will link a few of the Sydney papers below. Looking forward to seeing several members of this team at #NormalBirth16.
Catling, C., Petrovska, K., Watts, N., Bisits, A., Homer, C.S.E., 2015. Barriers and facilitators for vaginal breech births in Australia: Clinician’s experiences. Women Birth 29, 138–143. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2015.09.004 — A qualitative study of interviews with 9 breech-experienced professionals (midwives and obstetricians) exploring what helped and hindered their ability to provide women with the option of a vaginal breech birth.
Catling, C., Petrovska, K., Watts, N.P., Bisits, A., Homer, C.S.E., 2016. Care during the decision-making phase for women who want a vaginal breech birth: Experiences from the field. Midwifery 34, 111–116. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2015.12.008 — Additional analysis from the qualitative study above, exploring how these professionals provide care during the decision-making phase, when women are choosing mode of childbirth for a breech-presenting baby.
Homer, C.S.E., Watts, N.P., Petrovska, K., Sjostedt, C.M., Bisits, A., 2015. Women’s experiences of planning a vaginal breech birth in Australia. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 15, 1–8. doi:10.1186/s12884-015-0521-4 — A large qualitative study exploring women’s experiences and what women want when planning mode of breech childbirth. Open access too.
Petrovska, K., Watts, N.P., Catling, C., Bisits, A., Homer, C.S.E., 2016. Supporting Women Planning a Vaginal Breech Birth: An International Survey. Birth. doi:10.1111/birt.12249 — An international survey exploring the support women received when planning a breech birth. The researchers found that women were generally happy with their decision to plan a breech birth and would do it again in another pregnancy. However, lack of support from their primary care providers often made this difficult to achieve.
Petrovska, K., Watts, N., Sheehan, A., Bisits, A., Homer, C., 2016. How do social discourses of risk impact on women’s choices for vaginal breech birth? A qualitative study of women’s experiences. Health. Risk Soc. 1–19. doi:10.1080/13698575.2016.1256378
Petrovska, K., Watts, N.P., Catling, C., Bisits, A., Homer, C.S., 2016. “Stress, anger, fear and injustice”: An international qualitative survey of women’s experiences planning a vaginal breech birth. Midwifery 0, 464–469. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2016.11.005
Petrovska, K., Sheehan, A., Homer, C.S.E., 2016. The fact and the fiction: A prospective study of internet forum discussions on vaginal breech birth. Women and Birth. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2016.09.012
Watts, N.P., Petrovska, K., Bisits, A., Catling, C., Homer, C.S.E., 2016. This baby is not for turning: Women’s experiences of attempted external cephalic version. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 16, 248. doi:10.1186/s12884-016-1038-1 — Oh, thank goodness for this. The rhetoric around external cephalic version (ECV) is so strong, it almost feels a sacrilege to question it. Despite the Cochrane Review stating clearly that the evidence does not indicate that ECV improves neonatal outcomes, women are constantly told that ECV is ‘best for babies.’ Which says a lot about how reluctant to engage with the option of vaginal breech birth their providers are. This study of women’s experiences is a welcome balance to the dominant view that vaginal breech birth is only something to be considered after ECV has failed. ECV is a good option for many women, and a safe procedure in experienced hands. But it is not for everyone.
Borbolla Foster, A., Bagust, A., Bisits, A., Holland, M., Welsh, A., 2014. Lessons to be learnt in managing the breech presentation at term: An 11-year single-centre retrospective study. Aust. N. Z. J. Obstet. Gynaecol. 54, 333–9. doi:10.1111/ajo.12208 — Technically from another team, with one cross-over member, inspirational obstetrician Andrew Bisits. This observational study helps to shed light on the clinical context surrounding these researchers. Although the article makes no mention of use of upright positioning for labour and birth, Dr Bisits is well-known for his use of a birthing stool for breech birth. You can read more about this in a previous blog, Bottoms Down Under.
Andrew Bisits performing a gentle ECV
I may have missed something, or a new study may have been published while I am writing this. (I have updated the post with some recent editions.) Best to keep a look out yourself.
Update, 24 August 2016: Following protests from the local and international communities, Dekalb Medical has reinstated the ability of Dr Bootstaylor and the See Baby Midwifery team to support planned vaginal breech births. Thank you to all who stood by the team and helped achieve this important result. More information.
21 August 2016: Within the past two weeks, restrictions have been imposed on two highly experienced breech birth providers, suddenly, and without apparent cause. They are currently not allowed to attend breech births in hospitals where they have done so successfully for many years. These restrictions have been imposed by others who hold power within the institutions. The providers who have stood by women now need women, families and other professionals to stand by them.
On 7 September, a protest will be held in Los Angeles, California, at Glendale Adventist Medical Centre, which recently issued an outright ban on vaginal breech birth – The Rally Against Vaginal Breech Birth Ban. Glendale’s Dr Wu is a highly experienced breech birth attendant who supports not only women but other providers to gain skills.
If you attend the rally, or write a letter of support, and you tweet, use #bringbreechback – I will link to these tweets within this post.
Other related blogs:
- Dr Emiliano Chavira’s compelling letter about the state of maternity care – ImprovingBirth.com
- Support women’s autonomy and win a sling! – Dr Rixa Freeze
- The new face of America’s breech experts – Gail Tully
The See Baby team of Atlanta, Georgia, have also been restricted. Their ban includes water birth and VBAC, as well as breech birth. Read more about their situation on the See Baby Blog. To support the See Baby team, I have written the letter below, sent to the Director of WI Services at Dekalb Medical. Please add your voice to protest this backward decision, addressed to the Director and copied to Julia Modest of the See Baby team, so that they are aware of the support of the international community.
PLEASE WRITE TO ADD YOUR VOICE
20 August 2016
To: [The Powers that Be, names and addresses removed now that resolution has been achieved]
I am writing to express my concern and disappointment at the recent, sudden decision of Dekalb Medical to issue a blanket ban on water births, breech births and vaginal births after caesarean section (VBAC), facilitated by the internationally regarded See Baby team. Such a decision directly contradicts the recent, positive movement to recognise birthing women’s agency and autonomy, as summarised in this recent statement from the ACOG Committee on Ethics:
“Forced compliance – the alternative to respecting a patient’s refusal of treatment – raises profoundly important issues about patient rights, respect for autonomy, violations of bodily integrity, power differentials, and gender equality.” 1
The ban on water births and VBACs contradicts practices throughout the developed world, in which the tide is flowing very much in the opposite direction. My area of specialist knowledge is breech practice, where the tide is also turning, as reflected in the recent ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 161: External Cephalic Version, which also acknowledges the renewed interest in vaginal breech delivery as part of the movement to reduce the primary caesarean section rate.2 The change around breech birth is much more dependent on the skills of people like Dr Bootstaylor to light the way, due to many obstetricians having abandoned the art of obstetrics over the past several decades in favour of surgical deliveries.
The most recent ACOG Committee Opinion concerning “Mode of term singleton breech delivery,” written in 2006 and reaffirmed in 2016 makes clear, “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that the decision regarding mode of delivery should depend on the experience of the health care provider.”3 This is also reflected in the FAQ information ACOG provides publicly to women.4 Dr Bootstaylor is one of the most experienced breech delivery providers in the country, and satisfies every criteria associated with a lower risk of adverse outcomes for vaginally born breech babies 5,6. I was privileged to teach breech skills alongside Dr Bootstaylor at a seminar hosted by Dekalb Medical in May of this year, which was attended by obstetricians and midwives from several surrounding states. This sudden decision will undoubtedly have local ramifications for the women whose birth plans revolved around Dr Bootstaylor and his very competent team of midwives. The restrictions will also have historic ramifications. Dekalb’s actions remove the option of vaginal birth from women pregnant with a breech fetus, and they also remove the option of health professionals to learn breech skills in a responsible and sustainable way, in a hospital setting with a highly experienced mentor.
Many women in the population served by Dekalb Medical go on to have one or more further children. The increased maternal and fetal risks associated with multiple caesarean sections are well-documented7, and removing the ability of this population to make an informed decision to avoid a first or subsequent caesarean section could be considered reckless. The high caesarean section rate is a contributing factor to the fact that the US is the only country in the developed world where maternal death rates increased between 1990 and 2013.8 While the decision to ban water birth, breech birth and VBAC was no doubt based on apparent increased short-term risks, the absolute risks of all of these choices are lower than they have ever been. I would ask Dekalb Medical to consider the increased recognition courts are giving to women’s right to autonomy, informed choice and respectful care9,10. In other settings, coroners and experts have specifically implicated lack of access to hospital-based care in the deaths of breech babies born at home 11,12. Dr Bootstaylor is one of the few obstetricians who truly work in harmony with other practitioners to make sure the door is always open.
Giving birth is a physiological process, not a treatment provided by a medical professional. In no other area of medicine are institutions or professionals ethically able to require patients to undergo surgery in order to access care at a time when their health is at risk. The choice of surgical intervention must always remain informed and freely made, or else it is coercion. As summarised in ACOG Committee Opinion No. 439, Informed Consent: “Consenting freely is incompatible with being coerced or unwillingly pressured by forces beyond oneself. It involves the ability to choose among options and select a course other than what may be recommended.”13
It is reasonable for Dekalb Medical to take a position and issue a recommendation to women regarding these options, if your experts feel they represent a higher risk of which women should be informed. That is the professional course of action. But disabling informed refusal of caesarean section is a clear case of medical coercion. Forbidding water birth is a disregard of the preference and comfort of hundreds of women, which will cause them emotional distress, with no evidence that such action will improve physical health outcomes for them or their babies.
Dr Bootstaylor and his See Baby Midwifery team are shining lights in safe, compassionate, woman-centred care. As Dekalb Medical were issuing this ban, I was writing about this team by invitation for an edited volume on sustainable maternity care. They are an exemplar of safe, sustainable breech care, a model for others to replicate. In my opinion, they still are exemplary and will still be featured. Although now the enduring lesson will be of how politics, power and money can undermine even the best practice and principles in medicine and midwifery.
Please may I ask that you forward this letter to the powers that be involved in the decision-making process to suspend these vital and exemplary services? I look forward to hearing that this dangerous and unethical action has been reconsidered.
Shawn Walker, RM
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Refusal of medically recommended treatment during pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 664. Obs Gynecol 2016;127:e175–82.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice Bulletin No. 161: External Cephalic Version. Obstet Gynecol 2016;127(2):e54–61.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Mode of term singleton breech delivery. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 340. Obs Gynecol 2006;108(1):235–7.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If Your Baby Is Breech, FAQ079 [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 Aug 20];Available from: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/If-Your-Baby-Is-Breech
- Su M, McLeod L, Ross S, et al. Factors associated with adverse perinatal outcome in the Term Breech Trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2003;189(3):740–5.
Summary: The presence of an experienced clinical at delivery reduced the risk of adverse perinatal outcome (OR: 0.30 [95% CI: 0.13-0.68], P=.004).
- Walker S, Scamell M, Parker P. Standards for maternity care professionals attending planned upright breech births: A Delphi study. Midwifery 2016;34:7–14.
Summary: An expert panel consensus opinion that attendance at approximately 10-13 vaginal breech births is advisable for achieving basic competence, and 3-6 per year with mantaining competence.
- Caughey AB, Cahill AG, Guise J-M, Rouse DJ. Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;210(3):179–93.
Summary: The risk of maternal death from cesarean delivery compared to vaginal delivery is 2.7% vs 0.9%. Placental abnormalities (such as abnormal adherence, with consequent bleeding and possible hysterectomy) are increased with prior cesarean vs vaginal delivery, and risk continues to increase with each subsequent cesarean delivery.
- Schumaker E. Maternal Death Rates Are Decreasing Everywhere But The U.S. [Internet]. Huffingt. Post. 2015 [cited 2016 Aug 20];Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/28/maternal-death-rate-in-the-us_n_7460822.html
- Birthrights. UK Supreme Court upholds women’s autonomy in childbirth: Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [Internet]. Blog: Protecting Human rights childbirth. 2015 [cited 2016 Aug 20]; Available from: http://www.birthrights.org.uk/2015/03/uk-supreme-court-upholds-womens-autonomy-in-childbirth-montgomery-v-lanarkshire-health-board/
Summary: Women have a right to information about ‘any material risk’ in order to make autonomous decisions about how to give birth.
- Pascussi C. Mom Sues for Bait & Switch in Maternity Care [Internet]. Blog: BirthMonopoly. 2016 [cited 2016 Aug 20]; Available from: http://birthmonopoly.com/caroline/
Summary: A jury in Alabama unanimously returned a verdict in favour of a couple who experienced mistreatment and a lack of options in their hospital-based care, with an award including punitive damages of $16 million.
- Kotaska A. Commentary: routine cesarean section for breech: the unmeasured cost. Birth 2011;38(2):162-4.
- Powell R, Walker S, Barrett A. Informed consent to breech birth in New Zealand. N Z Med J 2015;128(1418):85–92.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Informed consent. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 439. Obs Gynecol 2009;114:401–8.
This week I am in Amsterdam, attending the First Amsterdam Breech Conference, Teach the Breech! I’ve been tweeting along, with #teachthebreech. If you aren’t on Twitter, you can catch up below. Also check out Rixa Freeze’s blog, Stand and Deliver, for more detailed summaries of the conference activities.
So pleased to receive news via Twitter that physiological breech birth skills are being taught in Bangladesh! Tanya (@midwifeinbd) is doing a wonderful job collaborating with obstetric colleagues to change the way breech is taught and enable active breech birth.
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 1, 2016
Integrated training in Bangladesh: a midwifery teacher, a doctor & the Labour Room manager/nurse. pic.twitter.com/QbHsji1Ki6
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 1, 2016
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 1, 2016
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 1, 2016
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 1, 2016
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 2, 2016
— Tanya (@midwifeinBD) June 10, 2016
Videos used in the training described above include The mechanisms, simplified, The Birth of Leliana and Shoulder Press and Gluteal Lift. You can read about ‘prayer hands‘ in this blog about assisting the birth of the arms.
Thank you once again to the mothers, midwives and doctors who have shared videos and birth images to enable health care practitioners all over the world learn these important skills.
Jessica’s baby remained persistently breech at term, and she was unable to find a provider in South Carolina to facilitate a vaginal breech birth. When she attempted to decline a CS and negotiate a vaginal birth, she was informed that if she came into the hospital in labour, she would be given general anaesthesia and her CS would be ‘a lot rougher.’ (Folks, the ACOG published something just for you: Committee Opinion No. 664: Refusal of Medically Recommended Treatment During Pregnancy.)
This was Jessica’s first baby, in a frank breech position (extended legs), with no additional complexities. Her sister, Family Practice Doctor Jacqueline Sequoia MD, heard about Dr David Hayes and Harvest Moon Women’s Health because they were hosting my physiological breech birth training. Jacqueline includes obstetrics as part of her practice and booked to attend the workshop with some colleagues. Jessica and her husband Brian met with Dr Hayes to consider their options, and once Jessica made her decision, found a rental apartment in Asheville on Craigslist.
Let’s contemplate that for a moment. In order to have support for a physiological birth, rather than the threat of a coerced CS, women are having to relocate to another state and rent temporary accommodation, because the baby is presenting breech.
When Dr Hayes and I arrived at Jessica and Brian’s apartment, Jessica’s labour appeared to be progressing well. As people entered her space, Jessica gradually moved into the tiny bathroom at the back of the apartment, reminding me of Tricia Anderson’s metaphor of cats in labour. I turned off the light. This labour had a journey, as all labours have. Throughout her journey, Jessica was surrounded by people who love her. At the end of it, Jessica beautifully and instinctively birthed her little girl, Leliana, who weighed 7lbs 8oz.
This video contains graphic images of a vaginal breech birth.
Being attuned to the general lack of training in physiological breech birth among health professionals, and the consequences for women and babies, Jessica and Brian were keen to share this video of Leliana’s birth to help others learn. If you would like to read more about the minimally invasive manoeuvres used at the end of this birth, you can read our blog on Shoulder Press and Gluteal Lift.
Thank you, Jessica, Brian, Leliana, Dr Sequoia and Dr Hayes for sharing this video. The link to this blog post can be shared, but the video cannot be downloaded or reproduced without permission.
— JacquelineSequoia MD (@jsequoia) May 28, 2016
Following Sunday’s workshop in Asheville, Dad and I drove to Atlanta, Georgia. I kept him content by taking him out to dinner and buying him a pint of Shock Top. This strategy was successful, and the next morning we arrived at DeKalb Medical, home of the truly wonderful and amazing SeeBaby team. An opportunity to meet one of my obstetric heroes, Dr Brad Bootstaylor!
Dr Bootstaylor set the tone of this half-day study day by describing the facilitation of breech birth as a “healing force that goes beyond that mother and that birth.” This philosophy, or as Dr Bootstaylor describes it, “a certain headspace,” clearly permeates the See Baby team. SeeBaby Midwifery is dedicated to providing options and support to women and families in this birth community. Patients travel near and far, for birth options such as Water Birth, VBAC, Vaginal Twin Birth and of course, Vaginal Breech Birth (singleton & twin pregnancies).
We were also joined by Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) Charlotte Sanchez, another breech-experienced midwife in this community, who shared valuable reflections on some of the births she has attended. Charlotte also teaches other health professionals about the safe facilitation of breech births. Hopefully we will cross paths again soon. Thank you for coming along, Charlotte!
My presentations included the mechanisms of breech birth — the key to understanding when intervention is needed in physiological breech birth — and active strategies for resolving complicated breech births, as well as ‘Save the Baby’ simulations, where participants resolve complications in real time with birth videos.
Following this, the See Baby midwifery team and Dr Bootstaylor led a panel discussion on ways forward for breech in Atlanta and surrounding areas. CNM Anjli Hinman identified one barrier as insurance company’s requirement that providers sign a statement saying that they are ‘experienced’ at vaginal breech birth in order to offer this service. However, ‘experienced’ remains undefined. This is a persistent problem. Our international consensus research suggest competence to facilitate breech births autonomously probably occurs at around 10-13 breech births attended, although this varies according to individual providers, the circumstances in which they work and the complications they encounter during this period.
Following the workshop, participants took a tour of the SeeBaby facilities at DeKalb. I would have liked to have joined them, but I had a message from Dr David Hayes in Asheville. Jessica’s waters had broken, and her breech baby was on the way. Because he is the best dad in the world*, my old man turned the car around and drove me 3 and a half hours back to Asheville. (* Don’t tell him I said this. He’s already big- and bald-headed enough.)
Tomorrow: We return to Asheville for the birth of Leliana …
Thank you to Tomecas Gibson Thomas for use of some of the photos she took during the workshop!
Taking breech training into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina …
We had to make a pit stop at a Motel 6 around 11 pm, but my Dad and I arrived in Asheville in time to have grits for breakfast. Asheville is an amazing town with a real ‘alternative’ feel about it, so I was anticipating a very receptive crowd. Already, what was supposed to be one study day on Sunday turned into two, as more doctors wanted to attend but it was already fully booked.
So at Harvest Moon Woman’s Health we had a 4-hour condensed training on Saturday, attended by one board-certified obstetrician, one resident at a local hospital, two family practice doctors from South Carolina, and a handful of midwives. This was followed by the full-day training on Sunday with midwives who came from as far as Tennessee and Virginia. With 39% of the respondents (across all of the six training days) indicating they had NEVER had any training in vaginal breech birth, the need and demand for such training was very strong.
We again discussed the subtle difference between these two ways of performing the manoeuvre often referred to as Frank’s Nudge:
- Sub-clavicular pressure and bringing the shoulders forward to flex an extended head
- Pressure in the sub-clavicular space, triggering the head to flex
- (Walker et al 2016)
The first of these involves rotating the shoulders forward, as described by Louwen and Evans (Evans 2012), minimally lifting the baby, and initiating flexion in the thoracic and cervical spine. This action is often performed with a rocking motion, nudging the aftercoming head around the pubic bone, mimicking the way a head is normally born, in reverse. Mary Cronk used a ‘stuck drawer’ metaphor to describe why rocking rather than steady pressure is sometimes more effective. Participants felt that the description ‘shoulder press‘ is effective for communicating the simpler manoeuvre (#2), where the head has stopped at the outlet of the pelvis. South Carolina Midwife Gayling Fox then suggested the term rock’n’roll manoeuvre for the other skill (#1), more useful where the dystocia has occurred at higher levels of the pelvis. Only in Asheville! I have to admit, the phrase is both fun and functional …
The law of ‘attracting breeches’ was in full swing in the mountains, as OB-GYN Dr David Hayes reported having received multiple enquiries from women seeking support for a vaginal breech birth, just from having hosted this training. In addition to being a sensitive and woman-centred obstetrician, David is an experienced breech catcher, having worked in both high-risk Western settings and abroad with Medecins Sans Frontiers. While he was open to physiological breech methods due to his familiarity with physiological birth in general, he had never attended a breech where the woman birthed in an upright position.
One of the women who contacted him was full-term with her first baby in a frank breech position (both legs extended). David asked if I would attend to support the birth in a teaching capacity, if available. Although we still had a couple more stops on the road trip, I tend to believe what will be, will be … if the stars align in just the right way … I said, Yes!
Tomorrow: Last stop: Atlanta. Or so we thought …
Evans J. Understanding physiological breech birth. Essentially MIDIRS. 2012;3(2):17–21. (Frank’s Nudge)
Walker S (2015) Turning breech upside down: upright breech birth. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, 25(3), p325-330. (shoulder press)
Walker S, Scamell M, Parker P (2016) Standards for maternity care professionals attending planned upright breech births. Midwifery. Vol 34, p1-7. (using subclavicular pressure to flex the aftercoming head)
— JacquelineSequoia MD (@jsequoia) May 28, 2016
Onto the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love …
The original plan was to provide one Philadelphia-based study day while I was in town for the 20-year reunion of the Kelly Writers House, and the showing of our film on ‘Upright breech birth’ at the ACOG Annual Meeting. If being-with-breech teaches you anything, it is to go with the flow, as things rarely unfold as expected. The two main events conflicted, and the original study day was fully booked within a week or two of the listing. The demand for breech training spread quickly north and south, from Montreal to Atlanta. Clearly, many in North America are keen to develop skills and change the current breech culture.
Finally, the obstetricians join us! (They are always invited.) I was so pleased that three board-certified obstetricians attended this training. This is a big deal in Philly, one of the largest cities in America, where the midwives were unable to identify a single hospital-based practice where they can refer women who want to explore a vaginal breech birth. Big journeys begin with small steps.
Although I have been reassured that every evaluation of this training indicates those attending increase their confidence in supine/lithotomy breech delivery as well as upright techniques, I sometimes worry that our physiological birth-based approach might alienate doctors who work in settings where 90% of women have epidurals in labour. But I guess midwives who work in out-of-hospital settings have felt the same way for years, as their training has been determined by obstetricians whose challenges and location-specific resources are very different. We had great discussions, and there feels a real potential for future collaborative working in this area. (And of course I am wondering if the law of ‘attracting breeches‘ will take effect … ) 😉
The Philadelphia training was hosted by Lifecycle WomanCare, and organised by their Clinical Director, CNM Julie Cristol, who also has a passion for helping others to develop their physiological birth skills for normal birth. Thank you, Julie! Their practice is located in a beautiful building, right next to the original Bryn Mawr Birth Centre. I was so pleased to be able to have a brief tour of their home.
In Philly, we had a 3-hour half-day event because that is what fit everyone’s schedules this time around. Unfortunately, my old friend Christy Santoro was unable to attend because she was at a birth! See you next time, Christy. I enjoyed making new acquaintances and hope to see the Lifecycle crowd again. Didn’t get time to take many pictures because we spent our limited time together talking breech and research, then Dad and I departed for our 9-hour drive to Asheville! Epic …
Tomorrow: We arrive in Asheville to teach breech in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina …
From Montreal, it was on to Tillsonburg, Ontario, ‘near Toronto’ — because in Canadian terms, within 3 hours is ‘near.’ The places around Tillsonburg are confusingly called things like London, Norwich, and Cambridge. The lovely Norfolk Roots Midwifery team gave me one of their bags to remember my visit. Can’t wait to take it back to Norfolk, England with me!
Again, the training was attended by midwives who came from various places throughout Canada and the US, including Alberta, British Columbia and Michigan, south of the border. I was privileged to meet Stacia Proefrock, a breech-experienced midwife from south-central Michigan. In addition to attending breech births, Stacia has experience teaching others about physiological breech birth and is the current president of the Michigan Midwives Association – a great person to be in touch with if you would like to organise a study day of your own in this area.
While in Ontario, I picked up a Deverra birth stool for use in teaching and births. The stool is visible in the photo to the right. I love their design, which features a wooden seat and 360º visibility. The Deverra birth stool is also completely portable; the legs unscrew and it comes in its own carry bag. When professionals are making the transition to active breech birth but can’t quite wrap their heads around facilitating a breech birth from behind the woman, I often recommend a birth stool as a good compromise — the woman remains mobile and upright, while the baby emerges facing a direction familiar to the attendant. While other birth stools are available, I am quite happy with this one, another reminder of my trip to Ontario!
At the end of each study day, we spend some time discussing how professionals acquire breech experience when breech births are not very common, including the concept of ‘attracting breeches,’ emerging in my current research. I know several of those attending this study day have sharpened their skills, reflected on the experiences they have already had, and are open to attracting breeches, so I look forward to seeing what happens among this group. Of course, in Ontario, activists have a great model in the Ottawa-based Coalition for Breech Birth and Midwife Dr Betty-Anne Daviss, who have worked together to enable midwife-facilitated breech births in hospitals in that area. Join forces with each other and work together for change!
The training was held in the house of author, speaker and birth activist Sheila Stubbs, who holds regular Birth Nerd gatherings in her home. The warmth and sisterhood in this community was very strong, and Sheila reminded me of Norwich’s beloved doula mother, Rachel Graveling. Thankfully, Sheila gave me a signed copy of her book for the Norwich Birth Group lending library.
Thanks also to Christine McGillis, who organised this training in Tillsonburg. ❤️
Tomorrow: On to Philadelphia, and the start of my Father-Daughter road trip!
Earlier this month (May 2016), I completed a road trip from Montreal to Atlanta to share the results of our international consensus research (Walker et al 2016), explain how it can be used to guide practice and education, and deliver physiological breech birth training based on that research to approximately 130 health professionals and other birth workers.
The goal was to enable these professionals to learn new skills, equip them to continue learning using an on-line Virtual Community of Practice, and empower them to disseminate the knowledge to others in their local communities. I met so many wonderful people, and feel confident they will work to extend the availability of skilled support for planned vaginal birth. I am going to tell the story of this amazing road trip in a blog mini-series. I hope you will join us … there is a special surprise at the end! 😉
The first workshop was attended by Certified Midwives from Quebec, Ontario, Maine, and Massachusetts, as well as doulas and CPMs from these communities. In Quebec, midwives work mostly in community settings and are not legally able to attend breech births except in emergencies (undiagnosed). However, some of the midwives have begun to work with obstetricians who will accept planned breech births, and they are working towards woman-centred, physiological care for these women. They also want to ensure emergency skills training is up-to-date, including physiologically-based strategies appropriate to midwifery-led settings.
As physiological breech birth gradually becomes the standard of practice, especially for midwives, breech skills will increasingly be taught by trainers who may or may not have much breech clinical experience themselves, much like they are now. It is therefore important that trainers be able to become ‘qualified’ to teach physiological breech methods, in the same way they teach supine-based emergency delivery techniques, and that they are teaching methods underpinned by research and consensus. Several skills trainers from throughout Quebec attended the workshop, and by using the resources made available, hope to disseminate the training to others in their local communities. I especially enjoyed meeting Sinclair Harris, the grandmother of this midwifery community, who has nurtured so many young midwives and is still actively teaching. Sinclair completed her RN training at St Mary’s in London. ❤️
Anyone in Quebec interested in receiving training
in the facilitation of physiological breech births —
contact Andrea Houle, the RSFQ Agente de Formation.
(contact form below)
The midwives told me that use of ‘prayer hands’ in rotational manoeuvres to release the arms struck a chord with them. The shoulder press manoeuvre also made sense, but some midwives felt that the two disctint versions of this manoeuvre needed independent descriptive terms, to capture subtly different techniques which are applicable in various circumstances. This cluster of manoeuvres have been taught as “Frank’s Nudge,” in honour of Frankfurt obstetrician Professor Frank Louwen. But because research indicates eponyms (named after people rather than descriptive terms) can lead to confusion and inadequate documentation, we try to use a description which ‘does what it says on the tin’ in the Breech Birth Network training, and we continually listen to feedback about what works to help novices learn breech better. More on the distinction between these manoeuvres coming up in a future blog …
Following the workshop, midwife Bronwen Agnew was kind enough to take me on a tour of the Maison de naissance, Côte-des-Neiges. This local birth centre is housed in a wonderful old rectory building, complete with wooden floors. It reminded me of my grandmother’s house, warm and simple. A beautiful place to give birth! Thank you, Bronwen.
The Montreal workshop was organised by Montreal doula and CPM, Rivka Cymbalist, and held at Studio L’équilibre en mouvement, ave Van Horne, a wonderful venue. We also enjoyed lunch at Rivka’s cafe, Caffe della Pace. Thank you, Rivka and family for your hospitality! If you are ever in Montreal, I also recommend relaxing at La Société Textile, a crafts shop / café where you pay by the hour to hang out, work on your knitting/sewing project, and drink unlimited tea from the kitchen. What more could a midwife ask for?
The current plan is to provide a 2-day breech train-the-trainers course in Toronto in late July / early August 2017, involving myself and some of the midwives who have taken the training this year and will be disseminating the skills in their communities. This is due to abundant feedback from the participants that they would like the training to be longer to allow for more discussion, reflection, fellowship and hands-on practice — of course we support all of the above! Follow this blog or the Breech Birth Network Facebook page to keep updated on our plans.
Tomorrow: Join us as we travel to Tillsonburg, Ontario!
Busy packing … leaving London for the US on Friday. Originally, I planned to attend the celebration of 20 Years of the Kelly Writers House and my college reunion at Penn, as well as the annual ACOG meeting where our film on upright breech birth is being shown, followed by a family wedding. But it turns out the first two conflicted, so instead I will be spending half of my holiday teaching breech in collaboration with other health professionals along the east coast of the US and Canada. With ‘renewed interest’ in vaginal breech birth from the ACOG, and Canadian SOGC guidelines fully supporting planned breech birth since 2009, the will to revive breech skills is in full swing in North America!
Some of the health professionals and birth activists collaborating to provide breech training in their communities include:
- Atlanta, Georgia – See Baby Midwifery is dedicated to providing options and support to women and families in the birth community. Patients travel near and far, for birth options such as Water Birth, VBAC, Vaginal Twin Birth and of course, Vaginal Breech Birth (singleton & twin pregnancies). The SeeBaby Team will lead a panel discussion on ways forward in the support of vaginal breech birth, and Dr Brad Bootstaylor is collaborating on the analysis of the evaluation data from this series of training days. (Places available.)
- Asheville, North Carolina – This is a community which values co-operation, and the study days here have been organised collaboratively by obstetricians, CNMs, CPMs and doulas. Dr David Hayes of Harvest Moon Women’s Health is also contributing to the analysis of the evaluation data. Thanks especially to Kathleen Davies and Jennifer White.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Thank you to Julie Cristol, CNM, of Lifecycle WomanCare for enabling this workshop.
- Tillsonburg, Ontario – Thank you to Christine McGillis and Sheila Stubbs for making this workshop happen in Ontario.
- Montreal, Quebec – Thank you to Rivka Cymbalist for organising this workshop and raising awareness of the need to increase vaginal breech birth options in this community. (Places available.)
This is a brief welcome message for those attending the Physiological Breech workshops.
The training provided by Breech Birth Network is different from obstetric emergencies training because it is based on physiological birth principles, including the importance of maternal movement in facilitating the birth process. Decisions on when or whether to intervene in a breech birth are determined by careful observation of the unfolding mechanisms, recognition of deviations from the norm and strategies to restore the mechanism. These strategies include maternal movements, as well as hands-on help from birth professionals. In Breech Birth Network training, which follows recommendations outlined in primary research with experienced professionals, birth videos are central resources, enabling both experienced and inexperienced professionals to develop and expand their pattern recognition skills, even in communities where actual breech births remain a rarity. Therefore, the training is supplemented by secure access to the resources and videos, which cannot be downloaded, but can be used to refresh training by those who attend the hands-on workshops when preparing for a birth within their local teams — the Virtual Community of Practice (VCOP).
Thank you to the women, midwives and obstetricians who have made this possible in order to increase the safety of breech birth for others.
Training programmes are often evaluated according to Kirkpatrick’s hierarchy, which has 4 levels:
Thorough evaluations of breech birth training packages are lacking. Evaluating impact of training on maternal/neonatal outcomes is a longer-term project, easier to achieve when considering the effect of training within one site, rather than professionals working in many different contexts; we have plans to begin such a project later in the year. However, for this series of study days in North America, we are collecting data on how many breech births those participating have attended in the year before and after training (change in behaviour), as well as changes in confidence levels before and after training (change in learning).
Those attending these training days include obstetricians, CNMs, CPMs, students, and birth activists keen to support cultural change in their communities. The results of the evaluation will help us to determine whether providing breech birth training based on conceptual understanding of physiological principles, within a community of practice/network learning model, will increase women’s access to the option of vaginal breech birth by increasing provider confidence and skills to provide this service.
The evaluation data will also contribute to answering two fundamental questions, which will require on-going research in the future:
- How can vaginal breech birth skills be revived within communities which have few or no experienced providers?
- How does training based on physiological principles impact the safety of breech birth for mothers and neonates?
Thank you to all the health professionals participating in this training and evaluation. I am looking forward to meeting you and learning from your communities!
P.S. Of course, we aren’t the only source of physiological breech birth training. Others include:
- Maggie Banks’ Breech Birth On-line Workshop
- Midwifery Today Conferences almost always include a full-day breech skills day facilitated by highly breech-experienced midwives
We advocate that all professionals including breech within their sphere of practice access breech training from multiple providers, consider the underlying principles and how they fit with your own understanding and experiences of birth, and maintain an open mind.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is consulting the public on the proposed new breech guideline, until 2 May, which is Monday. Read the guideline: Here. They accept one peer review per organisation, so I will collate any comments sent to me personally or posted here on Monday afternoon, and submit them for Breech Birth Network. – Shawn
It’s not every day you get to watch a sea otter pup come into the world! But when a pregnant wild otter took shelter in our Great Tide Pool Saturday, we had a unique opportunity to see it happen. Sea otters can give birth in water or on land. You’ll notice that mom starts grooming her pup right away to help it stay warm and buoyant—a well-groomed sea otter pup is so buoyant it’s practically unsinkable! For more video of the birth (spoiler alert: the miracle of life is graphic!) check out our YouTube channel: http://mbayaq.co/1R0v6oD . Besides keeping the pup afloat, grooming also helps get the blood flowing and other internal systems revved up for a career of chomping on invertebrates and keeping nearshore ecosystems, like the kelp forests in Monterey Bay, and the eel grass at Elkhorn Slough, healthy.Our sea otter researchers have been watching wild otters for years and have never seen a birth close up like this. We’re amazed and awed to have had a chance to witness this Monterey Bay conservation success story first hand in our own backyard. Welcome to the world, little otter!
Posted by Monterey Bay Aquarium on Sunday, 6 March 2016