25th June 1.30pm – The ‘Dropped Foot’ Baby in Labour
2nd July 1.30pm – Nuchal cords and vaginal breech births
14th July 6.30pm – ‘Buttock Lift’ for the birth of the fetal buttocks
To join one of the seminars listed above or any other which will be run over the course of the year, please see open the course in which you are enrolled.
Breech Birth Network, CIC is dedicated to training Midwives and Obstetricians of all levels in physiological breech birth and developing research exploring key breech birth issues. As well as running full days face-to-face training on physiological breech birth, our well attended and evaluated course is now available online. The course has been developed directly from research about physiological breech birth and can be accessed via this link.
To support the learning and development following completion of the online course, Breech Birth Network, CIC are now running live reflective sessions with an instructor. These group sessions will be run virtually and provide an opportunity to discuss important issues and clinical situations related to physiological breech birth. The sessions will be held on Zoom and facilitated by Dr Shawn Walker and Emma Spillane. The seminars are a chance for those who have attended the Breech Birth Network online training course to discuss issues related to practice, further understand some more unique scenarios and how to manage these in practice.
The seminars are an opportunity for healthcare professionals to come together and discuss all things breech! Each seminar will have a main topic or theme, but the conversation will be led by those attending. You can ask questions; discuss births you have attended and reflect on scenarios in practice.
Since the publication of the 2017 RCOG guidelines on the Management of Breech Presentation, mothers have, in theory, been given more choice in their options relating to mode of birth. Unfortunately, anecdotally this does not seem to be the case for all. Many units across the UK do not have dedicated services for mothers found to have a breech presentation at or near term. Therefore, they are potentially missing out on receiving balanced information regarding their choice of mode of birth. Finding out your baby is in a breech presentation at this late stage of pregnancy can be upsetting for some, birth plans have been discussed and made, excitement is building for the new arrival and then suddenly this seems to all be turned upside down. More decisions have to be made, that’s if the choices are offered to parents. Having a dedicated breech clinic, run by those knowledgeable and experienced in breech presentation, can help to allay some of the worries and concerns experienced by parents and ensure all evidence-based options are discussed in a balanced way. The clinic enables a two-way dialect between healthcare practitioner and mother in a supportive environment. In the current financial climate of the NHS it can be difficult to set up new services, however, the mother’s well-being must come first. Additionally, the skill of the practitioner is key to ensuring safety. The RCOG states:
“The presence of a skilled practitioner is essential for safe vaginal breech birth.”
“Selection of appropriate pregnancies and skilled intrapartum care may allow planned vaginal breech birth to be nearly as safe as planned vaginal cephalic birth.”
But with the decline in the facilitation of vaginal breech birth over the past two decades how do we ensure as healthcare practitioners that we are skilled to facilitate such births? This post aims to describe one way to increase knowledge, skill and experience in this field and how to set up a breech service within an NHS Trust to ensure mothers really do have all the options open to them for mode of birth with a breech presentation.
The first step to gaining knowledge and experience is to become involved in teaching. This has many benefits including, increasing your comprehension and embedding that information so you can pass it on to others; enables people to recognise you as breech specialist and it helps to build confidence when discussing with colleagues and parents alike. The more you are teaching the greater your understanding and the more people will recognise you within this role as a breech specialist. It is vital to keep your own skills up to date if you are putting yourself forward as a specialist, teaching both locally and assisting with teaching through the Breech Birth Network, CIC will help you keep up to date with the latest evidence and move things forward within your own constabulary. The team at the Breech Birth Network, CIC are very keen to support others to teach on our Physiological Breech Birth courses. You can read the following blog post for more information on the benefits of teaching Physiological Breech Birth with the Breech Birth Network, CIC.
Other ways to get involved with teaching are within the University and to the students coming through the local hospitals, these are the midwives of the future and this is where the biggest change is going to come from. Likewise, speak with the lead Consultant Obstetrician for new doctors starting in your Trust to see if you can teach them a shorter session on their induction days. This enables the new doctors coming into the hospital an awareness of what will be expected of them in terms of offering choice and ensures they have an understanding of both the mechanisms of breech birth and recognising complications. Additionally, setting up a weekly morning teaching session for thirty minutes ideally after handover so those finishing the night shift and those starting the day shift can both attend. This can be done as a case discussion or a scenario using a breech birth video. You could even use a breech birth proforma (if you have one) and ask those attending to complete the proforma whilst watching a video to see if they understand about the timings for a physiological breech birth and when to intervene. Speak to the Practice Development team and ask if you can teach the breech sessions on the mandatory training days too – moral of the story…teach, teach, teach!!
Of course, with all this knowledge and skills you are teaching you need to put it into practice. Put yourself forward at every opportunity to attend breech births both to facilitate them yourself and to support others to gain confidence in facilitating vaginal breech births. Clinical experience is essential. Research has shown, to maintain skills and competence the breech specialist should attend between three to ten breech births every year (Walker, 2017; Walker et al, 2017; Walker et al, 2018). In some smaller units this may be difficult to achieve but by making yourself available to attend births you will have a far better chance at getting these numbers in practice. There is also evidence which suggests that you can create the same complex pattern recognition by watching videos of vaginal breech births, both normal and complicated, as you can by attending breech births in real-life (Walker et al, 2016). Watching videos has the added benefit that you can rewind and re-watch parts of the video to ensure understanding and further analysis.
Setting up a breech birth service would be an excellent next step. Firstly, find a Consultant Obstetrician who is supportive of physiological breech birth and who would help to lead on service development with you. This has to be a multi-disciplinary approach other wise it just won’t be sustainable or safe. The best way to move such services forward is with consultant support and input, don’t try and do it on your own. A breech birth clinic is a good starting point for any service development, this will provide midwife-led and consistent counselling for parents attending the clinic. Depending on the size of the hospital, running the clinic once a week should be adequate initially. Setting up a dedicated email address for all referrals to be sent to is a great way to ensure referrals are not missed and there is a clear pathway set out. The following is an example of such a pathway:
Referrals can be made by any healthcare practitioner, but it is a good idea to link in with the sonographers performing the ultrasound scans. They may be able to send the details of the mother via email immediately following the scan and give the parents an information leaflet. This avoids any delay with the referral being made by another healthcare practitioner and ensures the counselling remains consistent. Moreover, the development of ‘breech teams’ is supported in the literature to ensure there are breech specialist midwives and doctors on every shift, or on-call, to support the wider team to gain their clinical skills to facilitate vaginal breech births and increase safety for mother and baby.
To further develop the service and your own skills you could complete a midwife scanning course. This will enable you to scan mothers referred into the breech service to check presentation before sending for a detailed scan. The advantages of this is that mothers could be referred into the clinic earlier, from thirty-four weeks gestation based on identification on palpation. Research has shown mothers find it difficult making decisions about mode of birth for breech presentation so late in pregnancy and would benefit from earlier referral and discussion. Referrals made at thirty-four weeks gestation with a bedside midwife scan to assess presentation, would enable the counselling to begin sooner giving more time for decision-making. An additional advantage of being able to scan is following mothers up after successful external cephalic version (ECV). Seeing mothers, a week after successful ECV enables you to scan the mother to ensure the baby has remained in a head-down position avoiding unexpected breech births. An adjunct to the scanning course would be to learn to perform ECV’s. This enables a fully midwife-led service and research has indicated comparable rates of success for ECV’s performed by Midwives and those performed by Obstetricians. It is also cheaper for the Trust to have ECV’s performed by Midwives!
Governance and audit are the final steps to take to building the specialist breech midwife role and for service development. This is often seen as the mundane part of the job, but you will benefit greatly by doing this, not just from immersing yourself in all the research but by knowing your service inside and out. Knowing what needs to be changed and what has improved. The first step in governance change is to write the guidelines incorporating physiological breech birth, new evidence relating to breech presentation, service development, the breech clinic, referral pathways and training. An example of a current guideline can be found via this link. Develop an information leaflet to give to parents which contains the latest evidence in relation to breech birth options. It can be given to the mothers either by midwives in the clinic and/or by the sonographers after their ultrasound confirming breech presentation. The following can be used as an example and is editable for use in your organisation.
Finally, audit, audit, audit! Before, after and everything in between! This is your evidence that things need to change and, once the service is developed, the outcomes since you implemented all the aspects of the service. It will also act as evidence of safety which the governance team within the organisation will want to see. Audit rates of planned caesarean, emergency caesarean, planned VBB, successful VBB, neonatal outcomes, maternal outcomes, uptake of ECV, success rate of ECV etc. All before and after the service. It is also a good idea to obtain service user feedback. Developing a simple questionnaire such as this one enables you to easily send and receive feedback regarding the service. Feedback from service users is the most powerful way of moving services forward and supporting change within an organisation, it also enables you to develop the service dependent on the needs of the parents using it. The process of audit and user feedback is continuous throughout the time running the service. However, it is important analyse and present the result at regular opportunities such as at local level with clinical governance days and meetings and at a wider national level at conferences and in journals.
Whilst it can seem daunting and places you in a seemingly vulnerable position, starting your journey as breech specialist is an extremely rewarding one which will enable you to learn and develop new skills not just clinically but operationally and strategically. It will give you a stepping stone into research, audit and teaching, build your confidence as a practitioner and most of all, empower you to provide the best evidence-based care for those families who need that knowledge and support at a crucial time in their pregnancy to help them to make the right decision on mode of birth for them and their breech baby.
Following the implementation of all that has been discussed in this post, the results within the large teaching hospital I work are as follows:
Planned caesarean section increased from 55.8% (n=43) to 62.9% (n=66);
Unplanned caesarean section decreased from 42.9% (n=33) to 24.8% (n=26);
Vaginal breech birth increased from 1.3% (n=1) to 12.3% (n=13)
All results are for those over thirty-six weeks gestation, there were no differences in neonatal mortality or morbidity prior to or following the implementation of the service. This is a positive change and shows how supporting vaginal breech birth in a safe environment can increase the normal birth rate. The results are after a year of implementing the service and will hopefully continue to improve as time goes on and more midwives and doctors become more confident to facilitate breech births.
The Breech Birth Network are delighted to announce both Shawn and Emma have been shortlisted for awards at the International Maternity Expo Awards. We are both very honoured to have been shortlisted in the following categories:
Dr Shawn Walker – shortlisted for the Research Innovation Award and the Improving Safety Award
Dr Shawn Walker has been shortlisted for both the Research Innovation Award and the Improving Safety Award for her work in improving the knowledge, skills and training around Physiological Breech Birth. Shawn has published a number of research articles highlighting the importance of effective training, the development of experienced breech teams and pracical insights into upright breech birth. Shawn is currenty writing proposals for further essential research into Physiological Breech Birth to further improve safety and choice for mothers and their babies as well as practiotioners facilitating such births.
Emma has been shortlisted for the Practice Innovation Award for her work in setting up a breech birth service in the large London teaching hospital she works in. The service supports mothers in their choices regarding mode of birth for breech presentation at term. Emma is also completing her Masters research in Breech Childbirth Preferences of Parents to further support service provision and support for parents choices.
We would both like to thank those who nominated us. It is a privilege and an honour to have been recognised for the work we are both doing.
Emma Spillane is seeking your thoughts on a new piece of research prior to its submission for ethics approval. If you have experienced a breech pregnancy within the last 5 years in the UK, either yourself or your partner, or you work with pregnant women in a non-medical capacity (e.g. doula, antenatal teacher, breastfeeding supporter, etc.), I would love to hear from you.
I am conducting research as part of my Masters exploring breech childbirth preferences of expectant parents to understand if there is demand for breech birth services within the NHS and explore the factors which influence parents decision-making. At this stage, I would like your feedback on the suggested design of the trial, to ensure that the information resulting from the research will be useful to those considering breech options. For those of you who would like to remain with the project I am forming a Breech Advisory Group provide feedback at further stages in the project such as analysing the results.
If you are interested in participating in my research in this way, please read the plain text summary of the project below and complete a short survey by following the link after the research summary.
Approximately 3-4% of babies at term present in the breech position (bottom or feet first) (Impey et al. 2017). The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (RCOG) most recent clinical guideline on Management of Breech Presentation recommends that pregnant women should be offered choice on mode of birth for breech presentation at term(after 37 weeks’ gestation) (Impey et al, 2017). Despite this recommendation, only 0.4% of all breech babies in the UK are born vaginally (Hospital Episode Statistics, 2017), and this figure includes pre-term breech births where breech presentation is more common (Impey et al. 2017). These statistics suggest that either the demand for vaginal breech birth is low, or the choice of mode of birth is not being consistently offered. This study aims to explore this enigma by providing empirical evidence necessary to inform maternity services on the requirement of breech birth services.
Current evaluations of demand for vaginal breech birth services have been limited by the quality and impartiality of information parents are able to access via their maternity services. For example, research has shown that women have difficulties finding information to support their choices and are pressured into making the decision based upon practitioner preference (Petrovska et al, 2016). An investigation carried out in the Netherlands, found that one third of parents would prefer to have their babies born vaginally (Kok, 2008). However, little is currently known about parents’ preferences in England.
This research will evaluate the extent of expectant parents’ preferences for vaginal breech birth prior to counselling, and the factors that influence these preferences, using personal interview surveys (Bhattacherjee, 2012). All women presenting with suspected breech presentation at a large London based teaching hospital – St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – will be given information about this study along with their Trust approved mode of birth information leaflet during their routine antenatal appointment at 36 weeks of pregnancy. As per Trust clinical protocol, women with suspected breech presentation will be offered a referral for an Obstetric Ultrasound Scan (OUSS) for confirmation of fetal presentation. During this routine OUSS appointment, either prior to or following the scan taking place, parents will be approached by the researcher and invited to take part in an interview on their preferred mode of birth and the reasons behind these preferences. Both parents, if present, will be interviewed separately. Parents will already have been given information about the study in the form of a Participant Information Sheet PIS) by the clinician referring them for an OUSS. The timing of the interview has been chosen because it fits with the participating Trusts usual pathway of care. Parents are informed there may be long waiting times due to OUSS being arranged at short notice.
The findings from this research will provide evidence on the following:
the demand for a vaginal breech birth service, based on written information prior to individualised counselling;
the factors influencing this demand, which can be used to improve shared decision-making training and taken into account when planning future research; and
a predicted service planning model for a fully integrated breech continuity team within the host Trust.
Data on parents’ preferences for mode of birth will be reported descriptively as a percentage. Qualitative data regarding parents’ reasons for their preferences of mode of birth will be analysed thematically.
Providing evidence-based information to parents throughout the pregnancy, birth and post-partum journey is an essential part of the role of all healthcare professionals working in maternity services. However, evidence suggests in some areas of maternity, such as the highly politicised area of vaginal breech birth, the information provided to parents is biased towards that of what the system supports or the individual healthcare professional providing the counselling prefers. A compelling ethical and legal requirement exists to provide the evidence to parents which they have a right to receive, as discussed by Kotaska et al (2007).
An international qualitative survey by Petrovska et al (2017) surveyed women who had a breech presentation and were seeking support for their choice of mode of birth. Petrovska et al (2017) examines how mothers found inadequate system and clinical support for vaginal breech birth which impeded their access to unbiased information on their options for mode of birth and the care they received. In a paper written by Powell et al (2015) they also found that parents were often given unbalanced information. This lack of balanced information was a motivating factor in developing an information leaflet for parents identified with a breech presentation at or near the end of their pregnancy. The development of an information leaflet is supported by many papers such as that by Guittier et al (2011) and Sloman et al (2016) who also found parents were often provided with biased information. We hope the development and provision of useful, unbiased information material will assist with decision making and enable parents to make an informed choice of their options with a breech presentation.
Clinicians should counsel women in an unbiased way that ensures a proper understanding ofthe absolute as well as relative risks of their different options. [New 2017]
It is alarming that despite this guidance, and in light of more recent evidence which has emerged on the suitability of vaginal breech birth for selective pregnancies, that parents are still not being given all their options and more importantly the impact it is having on their future pregnancies.
The information leaflet has been developed in response to the acknowledged lack of balanced information available to parents. To ensure the information is evidence-based it includes data from the RCOG (2017) guidelines as well as other research sources such as that from Louwen et al (2016) and the NICE Caesarean Section Guideline (2013). The information leaflet was circulated to healthcare professionals of all grades (midwives, SHO’s, Registrars and Consultants) as well as parents who had experienced a breech presentation previously. They were asked to comment via a SurveyMonkey on the information which was provided in the leaflet to ensure it was easy to understand, informative, evidence-based and unbiased. The leaflet is provided below in both PDF leaflet form as well as an MS Word format, so healthcare professionals are able to download and edit for use in their own healthcare organisation.
Providing this readily available resource for parents and healthcare professionals is invaluable for ensuring the correct information is easily accessible and shared to not only support parents in making an informed choice about their options, but also for assisting with the counselling healthcare professionals provide to those in their care. If you have any questions or comments about the information leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact us on the contact form provided below.
Last month I spent ten days in Southern Ethiopia volunteering for a charity, Midwives@Ethiopia (M@E). The charity provides training for Ethiopian midwives and supports rural health centres to improve their standards. This involves providing them with much needed essential equipment to help in the quest to improve maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. My main role during the trip was to assist with the week training programme which was designed to teach midwives to safely manage obstetric emergencies in low resourced settings. I was asked to teach vaginal breech birth and thought that this was the perfect place to run the Breech Birth Network’s Physiological Breech Birth study day, which teaches normal physiology and the skills to resolve complications of a breech birth (Walker et al, 2017).
Discussing normal mechanism
In rural health centres in Ethiopia, the midwife’s hands are their tools and so what could be more perfect than to teach them a new concept to managing breech births where they could use their ‘tools’ to safely resolve complications should they arise. But also, to teach upright positioning of a breech birth which gives up to a 70% chance of the birth happening spontaneously (Louwen et al, 2017). I was very nervous about the training, partly because this was such a new concept to the midwives, birthing in upright positions. “Women do not do that,” I was told. They informed me that women were “not cooperative” and therefore they gave birth in lithotomy positions. I was not sure whether this was the case or if it was more to do with the well-known obstetric phenomenon of there being a bed in the centre of the room, so the person will just get on it because they think that is the right thing to do. Or a lack of antenatal education on the importance of being mobile in labour. This made me more nervous because upright breech birth was going to be so far from what they were used to doing and seeing, a bit radical! The language barrier may also be an issue as well as the cultural differences, but I had nothing to lose and I really wanted to teach something which I believed would undoubtedly make a difference to mothers and their babies as well as to the midwives.
Second stage birth room in Uddo Health Centre
I started the day talking about the midwives experiences they have had of breech births. Unsurprisingly to me all the midwives in the room had witnessed and facilitated breech births, there is no scanning available and so most breech presentations are
undiagnosed. There is also limited access to health care for women and s ECV to turn the baby to a head down position is not usually an option. There were thirty-seven midwives present from different health centres and some from the main hospital in Dilla. Their experience ranged from eight weeks qualified to seven years qualified however some had very limited clinical experience in this time. Such as Getnet, the head of midwifery at Dilla University, he had six months clinical experience and has been working non-clinically for five years teaching midwives. I was struck by their stories of how women would walk for miles in labour to access help from a health centre because their labour had been obstructed, the breech presenting baby would be half born and they needed assistance to complete the birth of the baby. If they called an ambulance it could take hours to reach them, if it arrived at all, and they could then have a two, three, four hour or more transfer time to the nearest hospital for obstetric assistance. It is no wonder the maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality rates are so high. However, the Government is working hard at improving the morbidity and mortality rates with the help from the WHO and other organisations such as M@E and they have met their goal of increasing safety for mothers and babies early which is a fantastic effort and must be recognised.
Nenko, M@E’s main contact in Ethiopia who works with WHO
Health officers such as Nenko are vital in the quest to improve maternal and child health. They work very closely with the WHO and charities to bring training and help from other areas to improve safety for mother and child.
After finding out about their experiences I taught the normal mechanisms of a breech birth. I emphasised how birthing in upright positions will assist with the birth, widening the pelvis by up to 1.9cm (Reitter et al, 2016). I used a flexible pelvis to demonstrate this at every opportunity and referred it to cephalic birth as well, so they could see how women birthing in upright positions can help for all births. I had the help of two excellent midwifery lecturers, Kiddist and Shimeles. Kiddist is a lecturer at Awassa University about three hours north of Dilla, she has many years of experience and left Ethiopia briefly to complete her Masters in Amsterdam. Shimeles has seven years of clinical experience before becoming a lecturer at Dilla University and is now interested in moving into research. Their English was excellent, so they were able to help with the translation, this was a very new way of teaching breech birth for them to, but they were enthralled listening intently and repeating everything I was saying in Amharic to ensure understanding.
Kidist and Shimeles, Ethiopian Midwifery Lecturers
Something which I have always found very surprising is the lack of knowledge about the normal mechanism of a breech birth, like I found so many times when teaching in the UK, the Ethiopian Midwives were also unclear about the normal mechanisms prior to the training. This was evident by their answers to the pre-course training questionnaire which I had asked them to complete prior to starting the training. Twenty-two of the midwives thought that as the Frank breech passes through the ischial spines of the maternal pelvis, the fetal sacrum is normally anterior. This is the most common thought, although the actual answer is sacrum transverse. This is misconception is possibly due to traditional breech training focussing on telling practitioners that the back must be uppermost, however the rotation to sacrum anterior occurs after the birth of the buttocks so the rotation is visible and should be noted as a reassuring sign of progress.
After lunch it was time to teach how to quickly recognise complications and resolve them working with physiology. During breakfast I had given two other M@E volunteers a crash course on the resolution of complications, so they would be able to assist with the teaching during the day. When I spoke about and taught a complication I would show the manoeuvre for resolving the complication by teaching Shimeles and then ask him to show the group with me. Shimeles was then able to assist with the teaching which meant we had more time to ensure all participants were able to correctly perform the manoeuvre and had good understanding of what they were doing. I was pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic everyone was and how well they picked up these new manoeuvres. I started with simple shoulder press, I talked through when to use it and how to perform it and showed them videos of the manoeuvres being used. They found this particularly useful. They then all took it in turns to come up and perform the manoeuvre with either myself, Haf or Shimeles. This was a simple manoeuvre for assisting with the birth of the fetal head if it is deflexed at the outlet possibly due to the cord being around the neck or to speed up the birth due to a fetal concern. It was a manoeuvre they all felt they could use in practice which was easy to perform and very effective. I then taught shoulder press with ‘rock and roll’ which they thought was very amusing. Again, I taught Shimeles, he translated and performed the manoeuvre with me and then the group practiced. Shoulder press with ‘rock and roll’ can be used for a head in the mid-pelvis which has not fully flexed or if simple shoulder press has not been successful. Many of the midwives preferred this version of shoulder press to the simple shoulder press because they felt more secure holding the baby in this way.
It was lovely to see such enthusiasm for learning something new and the ‘light-bulb’ moment when they understood how birthing in upright positions can reduce the need for intervention which, for them, working in such low resourced settings and with extremely long transfer times in to an obstetric facility, was so important to have skills which would surely help to successfully assist breech births and potentially reduce harm to mother and baby. I held onto this enthusiasm as I continued through the course of the afternoon teaching how to recognise and resolve a compound arm by sweeping down the anterior arm. How to recognise and resolve using rotational manoeuvres with ‘prayer hands’, an anterior nuchal arm or bilateral nuchal arms. This is the complication which they found the hardest to grasp, the manoeuvre requires rotation to sacrum transverse, sweeping down the anterior arm under the pubic bone before rotating back to ‘tum to bum’. It required much more practice than the other manoeuvres but after a few attempts each they also were able to resolve this complication confidently.
Resolving nuchal arms
Elevate and rotate
Talking through elevate and rotate
After the arm complications came the head complications. The most feared of complications by healthcare professionals in any country is an extended head at the pelvic inlet. This was also true here in Ethiopia, where on the pre-training survey many commented about this complication:
“…delayed engagement of the after-coming head to save both fetal and maternal life.”
It was clear this complication was misunderstood as it is by so many healthcare professionals. It is due to the lack of knowledge about the physiology of a breech birth that this complication is so feared and difficult to manage. One of the questions on the pre-training questionnaire asks about how a practitioner would resolve delayed engagement of the aftercoming head, the answers confirmed the lack of knowledge and understanding of the complication. If this is not taught to healthcare practitioners how are they supposed to resolve the complication?
“after deliver of arm and lower extremities then deliver the head by MSV manoeuvre/procedure”
“…with piper forceps, by doing cervical incision.”
“Apply MSV…manoeuvre to deliver the head if after this manoeuvre still the head is not deliver apply piper forceps.”
“We use MSV manoeuvre and simultaneously apply supra pubic pressure.”
I taught them how to use a manoeuvre called ‘elevate and rotate’ describing the physiology behind why the head does not engage and becomes impacted at the pelvic inlet on the sacral promontory. Once they understood this, the manoeuvre came easily to them. They watched it on a video and had many goes at practicing it. This manoeuvre was so important for all of them to learn but in particular those working in rural health centres. Having heard the stories they shared throughout the day about obstructed breech births and not being able to resolve these complications, I knew that even if a woman had spent hours walking in labour for assistance, it may be too late to save the baby, but these manoeuvres could still help to save the mother. It really struck me how their challenges were so much different to ours back in the UK, how lucky we were to have obstetric assistance at our finger tips within minutes. It puts everything into perspective and changes your views on many things within midwifery when you hear these stories and challenges which they face every day when they go to work.
At the end of the day I was given a traditional Ethiopian applause and cheer, I knew at this moment I had taught them all something which they could use, something that would really make a difference to their practice not only with breech birth but quite possibly with cephalic births too. I hope to return to Ethiopia next year and be able to train more midwives these invaluable skills, so they can help more mothers and babies safely enter this world whatever position they decide to present in!
Emma Spillane, Training Co-ordinator at the Breech Birth Network, has attended six breech births in the last six months in an NHS hospital. Rebuilding breech skill is possible, guided by evidence about how breech competence develops. Emma writes about how she gained confidence in teaching and attending physiological breech births by assisting at Physiological Breech Birth study days.
In January 2017 I attended a Physiological Breech Birth study day in Norwich by Dr Shawn Walker and Dr Anke Reitter. Breech birth had always interested me from my first breech birth as a newly qualified midwife. I didn’t understand the physiology of breech birth at this time, it had always been taught as something abnormal, an obstetric emergency. I could never understand though, how breech birth could be so abnormal if babies were on occasion born like this. My interest had been piqued, and so a few years later, and a few more breech births later, I found myself on the study day to develop my knowledge and skills in vaginal breech birth.
The study day taught me the tools required for supporting women to have a physiological breech birth and to resolve possible complications whilst supporting physiology. Following the training I went and introduced myself to Shawn and told her of my interest in breech birth, I felt so inspired to start a breech birth service within the trust I work. On my return to work I started putting plans in place to develop a service within the trust. Shawn contacted me a few days later and invited me to help teach the hands on clinical skills on her next Physiological Breech Birth training day in South Wales. I jumped at the chance to attend and found it so useful to listen to the day again and then help with the hands on teaching. It helped to embed what I had already learnt previously and give me the confidence to teach the skills within my own trust.
I started talking about breech, a lot! Shawn continued to invite me to help on training days and with each one my confidence grew. I started viewing the videos differently. Instead of looking for what was ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ I started analysing them with a deeper understanding of the physiology. Shawn also encouraged me to start teaching parts of the presentation. Admittedly I was more than a little ropey to begin with but with Shawn’s nurturing and encouragement and the more I learnt from each training day, each time I attended my confidence grew. Eventually I was able to transfer this new knowledge, understanding and confidence into practice. I was asked to attend a breech birth!
I supported a woman with a physiological breech birth, along with a consultant obstetrician colleague and one other midwife. An arm complication occurred with the birth, and I was able to resolve using the manoeuvres I had learnt and taught on the course. The baby was born in good condition, and I felt relieved and elated! I immediately contacted Shawn to tell her about the birth but it had also sparked an interest in the consultant obstetrician who had attended. We debriefed from the birth and I spoke about the Breech Birth Network and the training it offers. I took the opportunity to ask if my obstetric colleague would like to be the lead consultant in my quest to set up a breech birth service, to which they agreed. It had taken me nine months – the length of a full term pregnancy – from when I first attended the training until this physiological breech birth. It was the birth of an exciting change in knowledge and culture.
Claire Reading, Emma Spillane and Shawn Walker
Attending training days has not only helped to embed my own learning but it has given me the skills and confidence to set up a service within the trust I work, support women who choose to have a vaginal breech birth and support colleagues to facilitate breech births themselves. I have found repeating the information and skills has been the key to my learning and enabling change within practice. It has given me the confidence to attend births and increased the number of breech births within the trust by instilling confidence in others. If you would like to build your confidence in vaginal breech birth, develop a service within your trust and teach others I highly recommend coming along and helping at future training days. You can view a list of upcoming opportunities to help deliver training here. Please let us know by getting in contact via email or the contact form.