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.)
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.