Breech training: time for a new approach?

Providing advanced training to a core breech clinical teaching team is potentially more efficient and effective than training the entire maternity care team using traditional methods. The theory is strong, but rigorous research needs to be done.

Traditional training, looks something like this: Participants take time away from clinical commitments to attend a dedicated training session, ranging in length from a few hours to a whole day or more.

Challenges for this approach in the context of breech birth

1. It’s expensive

While preparing the research proposal for the #termbreech2020 Physiological Breech Trial, I worked closely with NHS Research & Development Finance specialists. Using the Agenda for Change pay scales, we calculated that providing 1 day of physiological breech birth training to 5 obstetricians and 5 senior midwives will cost the service £2,442 just to release them from clinical work. Multiplying this to cover the whole staff will obviously increase the cost exponentially. And then there is the cost of paying the trainers.

This is why most training programmes, like PROMPT, use a ‘train the trainers’ approach. It is a more efficient and effective way to disseminate training throughout an organisation. [PROMPT is a great multi-professional training package, but unfortunately, they excluded outcomes for breech births from their evaluation (Draycott et al 2006). So this training has not yet been evaluated for vaginal breech birth.]

2. The effects of training wear off before most people will have a chance to use it

Our systematic review of the effectiveness of breech training strategies showed that breech training can improve objectively assessed skill and knowledge, but that these effects wear off quickly, sometimes within 6 weeks, sometimes within 72 hours. A bigger concern was that, in some cases, confidence increased but objectively assessed skill did not. Training alone is likely not sufficient to improve breech skills, but for those who have some clinical experience, it may extend current understanding.

If you train a staff of 40 (or more) in a service that has only 1 breech birth per month, most of them will not have a chance to consolidate their learning in clinical practice. And if you do not have a plan for ensuring that someone who has attended enhanced training will attend the vaginal breech births that do occur, the enhanced training will not contribute to improvement in outcomes.

3. Clinical support in practice appears to make the biggest behavioural change

A surprising finding from our systematic review was that attendance at an obstetric emergencies-type training course was inversely associated with attendance at vaginal breech births, unless a system was in placed to provide clinical support in practice. This means that clinicians attended fewer vaginal breech births after taking breech training as part of an obstetric emergencies package. Although no quantitative evaluation was done, the studies that reported increase in breech births attended all had a model for ensuring experienced support in practice.

Conclusion

Implementing a breech clinical teaching team is a way of ‘training everyone.’ The model just differs from traditional ‘training day’ methods, which have not proven effective on their own in sustaining safe vaginal breech services.

Paying a few people who want to support breech births to be on-call occasionally and to cascade training is likely less expensive than providing enhanced training to the entire maternity care team, or even the entire senior team. But we need to implement the model and evaluate it in a systematic way in order to determine cost effectiveness. This is why experienced health economists are central to the #termbreech2020 Physiological Breech Trial and helped develop the design.

According to the evidence, breech clinical teaching team is also likely to result in greater availability of the option of vaginal breech birth for women who want them. This was a central concern of the women who participated in #termbreech2020 Physiological Breech Trial public engagement work.

But! Isn’t experienced senior clinical support what consultant obstetricians do? … Good question. We’ll discuss that next …

Shawn

Walker S, Breslin E, Scamell M, Parker P (2017) Effectiveness of vaginal breech birth training strategies: an integrative review of the literatureBirth. 44(2):101-9. (Author version archived at City Research Online)

What are the physiological breech birth proficiency criteria?

Explanation of the Proficiency Criteria used in the OptiBreech study

The setting of proficiency criteria for those attending vaginal breech births in the OptiBreech Study is a quality assurance mechanism. The potential risks of participating in research need to be mitigated as much as possible. Defining a set of minimum training and experience criteria for those attending vaginal breech births in the feasibility study is one way of doing this.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines proficient (adv.) as: well advanced in art, occupation or branch of knowledge. Proficiency lies somewhere between basic competence, which all professionals are expected to have in order to practice safely, and expertise, which only a few may acquire. Using the term ‘breech expert’ may also suggest that all risks can be eliminated as a consequence, and unfortunately this is never true with birth.

A professional is considered currently proficient in physiological breech birth if they have:

  • participated in 6 hours of evaluated physiological breech birth training;
  • attended at least 10 vaginal breech births, including resolution of complications using manual manoeuvres;
  • experience of 3 vaginal breech births (attended or taught with simulation) within the past year; and
  • delivered physiological breech birth training at least once within the past year, including reflective reviews of births attended.

The evidence that has contributed to these criteria is referenced below, but they are also the result of much involvement from professionals currently trying to implement physiological breech birth services in a responsible manner.

The drawback of using proficiency criteria during a trial is that results will only be generalisable to settings which apply a similar set of criteria. After 10 years of studying how centres have re-introduced thriving vaginal breech birth services where little or no service existed, I have observed that almost all those that succeed use some form of a ‘breech team’ strategy. This is rarely reported because it is usually informal, and that may be one reason great services are sometimes not sustained as key individuals retire or leave the service.

I actually believe that the idea of a ‘golden age’ of universal breech skill is a bit of a myth. I think that adverse outcomes used to be more common and more tolerated. And I think that certain individuals have always had an affinity with breech birth, leading to them being called in to help their colleagues more often. Breech clinical teaching teams just make this mechanism visible and systematic.

Follow-on question from a consultant: Are the numbers meant for proficiency realistic?

A breech clinical teaching team can realistically achieve the numbers required to maintain proficiency if the team is not larger than the number of births occurring. If the numbers of vaginal breech births are small, the breech clinical teaching team needs to be smaller. If the unit is functioning as a centre of excellence and attracting additional breech births, the team can and will expand.

The important lessons we have learnt from working with centres that have implemented a good physiological breech training service are:

  • Do not change a whole organisation’s approach to breech birth unless everyone has received the same training and has been supported to apply it in practice. Just because a unit has hosted a study day doesn’t mean the unit is now a centre of excellence. Training, skill and experience lie with individuals, not institutions. If you haven’t been trained to do something new (e.g. upright breech birth), don’t do it. Use a breech clinical teaching team to help new skills embed into the wider service.
  • Do not become complacent once a service embeds and becomes the ‘norm’ in a unit. Be cautious when new members of staff join a service, including as part of training rotation or locum/bank. They are likely not to have a similar level of training and experience.

Follow-on question: Does this mean we should not attend physiological breech births if we have not achieved these criteria? And what if we do not have enough people who have achieved the criteria to cover the service?

The criteria are not meant to prohibit breech births from occurring without them. But if we consider this the benchmark ideal for physiological breech birth, our counselling can include how close we are to achieving this, or not. We can help women make informed decisions by clearly defining ‘skill and experience,’ and explaining that where this is not available, it may introduce some increased risk.

Even in the OptiBreech Study, we may need to be flexible in the early stages, being open and honest with the women who participate. But setting the criteria and attempting to achieve them will enable us to answer important questions, like How often were we able to get a breech team member to the birth? Did it require us to put people on-call? If so, how often? If we weren’t able to do it from the start, how long did it take to establish a proficient team? How much effort did it take from the team, and how do they feel about it? How do the rest of the team feel about the team’s involvement? Answering these questions will enable us to refine the design of the study even further if it proceeds to a substantial trial.

Follow-on questions: The study design and criteria seems to direct towards selective group. And what if I feel skilled and experienced to attend breech births but do not meet all of the criteria?

The criteria are based on the best available evidence. Participation in a breech clinical teaching team may be perceived as a privilege, but it will also require effort from those involved. It is open to anyone with an interest who puts in that effort.

The OptiBreech Study is in the early stages of feasibility testing. Professionals should go on using the same standards of competence recommended in local and national guidelines outside of the feasibility trial.

Shawn

References:

What is Physiological Breech Birth? Read more here: Walker S, Scamell M, Parker P (2016) Principles of physiological breech birth practice: A Delphi StudyMidwifery. 43:1-6. (Author version archived at City Research Online)

6 hours of evaluated breech birth training

Attended at least 10 vaginal breech births, including resolution of complications using manual manoeuvres

Experience of 3 vaginal breech births (attended or taught with simulation) within the past year

Delivered physiological breech birth training at least once within the past year, including reflective reviews of births attended

What is the evidence for breech teams?

Use of breech clinical teaching teams is a pragmatic mechanism for delivering the only intervention associated in a randomised trial with an improvement in neonatal outcomes: the presence of a ‘skilled and experienced’ practitioner.

Su et al (2003) performed a secondary analysis of Term Breech Trial (Hannah et al, 2000) data to identify factors associated with adverse perinatal outcomes. The presence of an experienced clinician was the only factor associated with a reduced risk of adverse perinatal outcome in a vaginal breech birth (OR: 0.30 [95% CI: 0.13-0.68], P=.004). Compare this to the reduction of risk associated with a cesarean section during active labour in the same trial (OR: 0.57 [95% CI: 0.32-1.02, P=.06), or the reduction of risk associated with planned cesarean section overall in the trial (RR: 0.33 [95% CI: 0.19-0.56, P=<0.0001).

It is noteworthy that having an experienced clinician at the birth was associated with a reduced risk of adverse perinatal outcome, only when an experienced clinician was defined as a clinician who judged him or herself to be skilled and experienced at vaginal breech delivery, confirmed by the Head of Department. When an experienced clinician was defined as a licensed obstetrician or as a clinician with more than 10 or 20 years of vaginal breech delivery experience, there was no subsequent reduction in risk of adverse perinatal outcome. Thus, our analysis suggests that a clinician’s self-assessment of his or her own skill and experience may be a more valid measure of clinical experinece than either the completion of a training program in obstetrics and gynecology, or having many years of attending to vaginal breech deliveries.

Su et al for the Term Breech Trial Collaborative Group (2003) AJOG 189(3): 740-745

If we take the lessons of the Term Breech Trial seriously, and I think we should, then evidence-based practice would be to:

  1. do everything possible to ensure there is as much ‘skill and experience’ as possible in the room for every vaginal breech birth; and
  2. incorporate the availability of this skill and experience into the counselling women receive.

The findings of the Term Breech Trial resonate with the Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) work I have done to explore the feasibility of a physiological breech trial (#termbreech2020). Women also find the availability of a skilled and experienced attendant fundamentally important to their decision-making around whether or not to plan a vaginal breech birth. Consultant Midwife Emma Spillane and I have published two case studies that explore how this works in practice and what it means to women (2019 & 2020).

Finally, my own theory-building research suggests that breech clinical teaching teams are potential solutions to the pragmatic problem of providing ‘skill and experience.’ This consensus-development research with experienced obstetricians, midwives and service user representatives, to determine the standards for practitioners attending upright breech births, recommended ‘specialist’ breech teams. These collaborative recommendations have shaped the development of the ‘physiological breech birth’ intervention in the #termbreech2020 feasibility study.

Given the general depletion of VBB skills and opportunities, one of the hospital-based panel members suggested a ‘specialist’ breech team in every labour setting with at least one member on each shift (or on-call) would be advantageous, and this statement met consensus-level agreement (87%). However, the panel agreed the role of ‘specialists’ is to mentor and support breech skills development throughout the entire maternity care team, rather than functioning as experts of an exclusive skill set.

Walker, Scamell & Parker (2016) Midwifery 34:7-14

In summary, the status of the evidence is: Breech clinical teaching teams are a potential mechanism for providing an intervention we know reduces the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes in vaginal breech births: a ‘skilled and experienced’ attendant. And their use is recommended by professionals experienced with physiological breech birth. Now physiological breech birth team care needs to be tested. The #termbreech2020 Physiological Breech Study will explore the feasibility of doing that in a randomised trial.

Coming soon … how is ‘skill and experience’ defined?

Shawn

What is Physiological Breech Birth? Read more here: Walker S, Scamell M, Parker P (2016) Principles of physiological breech birth practice: A Delphi StudyMidwifery. 43:1-6. (Author version archived at City Research Online)

What is a ‘Breech Team’?

I am incredibly grateful for the time my senior obstetric and midwifery colleagues have taken to read and engage with the plans for the #termbreech2020 Physiological Breech Trial. If feasible, this will be the first trial of term breech birth in over 20 years. Multi-disciplinary involvement in the trial design is essential to its success. This will be the first in a series of blogs addressing some potential barriers identified. The purpose is to 1) involve others in the discussion and reflection; 2) invite further feedback; and 3) share the learning with colleagues who are planning to implement a Breech Team, within the feasibility study or independently.

‘Breech Team’ is a succinct term for a Breech Clinical Teaching Team.

A Breech Clinical Teaching Team is a multi-disciplinary group of clinicians within a maternity care team who are proficient in facilitating physiological breech births, leading on breech training within the institution and attending vaginal breech births regularly in their clinical teaching role.

What does this look like?

In the #termbreech2020 feasibility study, we will start by providing Physiological Breech Birth training to five consultant obstetricians and five senior midwives.* These 10 initial Breech Team members will organise themselves to cover the service. The team has autonomy over determining how this will work, but support from the institution is essential. The role needs to be recognised so that, at a minimum, team members can be released from other duties temporarily when required to attend a breech birth, or given time back if they have attended a birth outside their normally scheduled hours.

The core team should include clinicans who 1) spend a lot of time on the Labour Ward; 2) enjoy teaching; and 3) have skill and experience attending vaginal breech births.

When attending a breech birth, the role of a Breech Team member is to 1) support the attending clinicians to develop their own physiological breech birth skill set; 2) to maintain safety while this occurs; and 3) to continue their own learning. Following each breech birth attended, the Breech Team member shares the learning from that birth by providing a brief reflective account and simulation if appropriate, or supporting the attending clinican to do so, for other members of the maternity care team who did not attend the birth.

The Breech Team also collaborates and leads on breech guidelines and education within the institution. This promotes a consistent approach and dissemination throughout the wider maternity care team.

What a Breech Team is not: A small group of clinicians who are the only people allowed to attend breech births. The role is an additional safety and training mechanism.

Do you have a breech team in operation within your unit? Is it formally set up or informally arranged on a per-woman basis? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Shawn

from the intro to Løvset’s original publication of his rotational manoeuvre, 1937 BJOG 44(4): 696-701

Upcoming Breech Team blogs:

* All breech training is provided free of charge for the institutions that are participating in #termbreech2020. The feasibility study includes a budget for the release of time for the initial 10 Breech Team members. Breech Team members will then lead on education within the insitution, but training materials (videos, presentations, etc.) and support will be provided. Institutions can request further free training at any time.

What is Physiological Breech Birth? Read more here: Walker S, Scamell M, Parker P (2016) Principles of physiological breech birth practice: A Delphi StudyMidwifery. 43:1-6. (Author version archived at City Research Online)

June 2020 — online breech learning opportunities

We have a number of online and upcoming learning opportunities available for you.

The Practising Midwife, June 2020

No more hands off the breech” is published in this month’s The Practising Midwife. In this article, I argue that we need to reconsider the way we use Mary Cronk’s famous phrase, “Hands off the breech!,” along with some other commonly held beliefs that may not be helpful.

I’d love to hear what you think about this and how it relates to your experience.

Consultant Midwife Emma Spillane and I are also speaking at the Northern Maternity and Midwifery Online Festival on Tuesday 23 June. I will be talking about improving the safety of breech birth through research, and Emma will be speaking about implementing a breech birth service.

Finally, our Vimeo channel features a couple new videos created to help student midwives learn about research, through the lens of improving breech safety. I’ve posted them below. The settings enable you to share and embed if you would like.

The first video explains one of the studies published as part of this Trio of Breech Articles, an open-access special issue from the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.

Shawn

International Day of the Midwife 2020

Happy International Day of the Midwife!

Image from Dr Anke Reitter, 2020

This year we honour midwives who continue to do the best job in the world under the most difficult of circumstances. Please enjoy this virtual International Day of the Midwife 2020 celebration from King’s College London student midwives, staff, alumni and collaborators. I’m so proud to be a part of this team!

And as always, we at Breech Birth Network honour the highly skilled midwives around the world who are working to make vaginal breech births safer and more accessible, for the women who choose them and for those who do not have a choice.

As part of the celebrations, I’ve made this video to explain the recent research that Dr Anke Reitter, Alex Halliday and I have done about what ‘normal for breech’ looks like. The video can be shared. Thank you to the women and professionals who have shared their intimate and vulnerable moments to make this possible.

The research is published open-access (FREE!) as part of a trio of breech articles by the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.

— Shawn

Video analysis and Algorithm paper published!

Practical insight into upright breech birth from birth videos: a structured analysis” is now available on-line! (Reitter, Halliday and Walker, 2020, Birth – https://doi.org/10.1111/birt.12480) This paper represents a few years of hard work by Anke Reitter, me and our Research Assistant, Alexandra Halliday. It contains insights into birth timings and the mechanisms as observed in upright breech birth videos. The Physiological Breech Birth Algorithm is also included.

Download Algorithm

We look forward to much debate and discussion! Please share with anyone concerned about safe vaginal breech birth.

Love,

Shawn

Traduit par: Isabelle Brabant et Caroline Daelmans

Vancouver physiological breech workshop

Next month, I will be a Visiting Scholar at the University of British Columbia. This will include a workshop on my research and physiological breech birth practice, delivered alongside Andrew Kotaska, lead author of the Canadian breech guideline, and a highly respected obstetric and midwifery faculty.

Please share this information with any Canadian OBs and Residents who want to extend their skills to facilitate safe vaginal breech births. The course is accredited for MOC 3. Bookings can be made on-line.

Becoming a Breech Specialist and Setting up a Breech Service within the NHS

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.”

And

“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.

Teaching physiological breech birth at City, University of London

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, 2017Walker et al, 2017Walker 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:

Breech service referral process at St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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.

Breech information leaflet developed by the Breech Birth Network, CIC

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.

Emma