Breech in Belfast

Consultant Obstetricians Niamh McCabe and Janitha Costa, and Breech Specialist Midwife Jacqui Simpson

The Breech Birth Network visited Belfast this weekend. Dr Anke Reitter FRCOG of the Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen and I taught a day-long physiological breech study day at the Royal Victoria Hospital for over 40 obstetricians and midwives.

The day was organised by Consultant Obstetricians Janitha Costa and Niamh McCabe, enthusiastic upright physiological breech practitioners, and Senior Registrar Shaun McGowan. The team have recently published outcomes associated with their breech clinic (Hickland et al 2017 and Costa 2014).

Our study day increasingly emphasises pattern recognition and decision-making through the use of real breech birth videos, especially videos of complicated births. We watch, deliberate and critique – with compassionate understanding, respect and humble appreciation. These brave health professionals and women have allowed themselves to be vulnerable and exposed in order that others may learn, and we are very grateful.

We have also moved away from using heavy and expensive simulation models and rely instead on doll and pelvis models. These enable us to see what is happening from all angles and embed the theory of the manoeuvres we are teaching. We operate on a see one (the theoretical presentation), do one (hands-on with one of the instructors), teach one (of your colleagues) model. This helps build confidence to carry on teaching the techniques in the local setting.

Our preferred models (it’s a great idea to have some on hand if you are organising a study day or implementing this training in your local setting) are:

Fetal Doll Model; and

Cloth Pelvic Model; or

Female Pelvis Model

Final announcement: Blogging has resumed because … I submitted my PhD a couple weeks ago! Hurrah!

Shawn

Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen is also on Facebook!

Consultation: Rapid resolution and redress scheme for severe birth injury

The government are currently consulting on a potential shift to a rapid resolution and redress scheme for severe avoidable birth injury. Such an initiative was recommended by the recent National Maternity Review (Better Births, 2016), based on feedback from families and health care professionals.

Here’s why I think it’s a good idea:

  • The current system often requires lengthy and adversarial court proceedings in order for families to receive compensation. Litigation is the last thing parents need when their child has been injured.
  • Families have to prove negligence in order to get the financial support they need to care for their child. This is often directed at an individual, when we know that most problems are systemic in nature.
  • Local investigations mean learning is only disseminated at Trust-level. The nation-wide scheme would include a national database to identify learning which can be disseminated.

Globally, we need systems based upon relationship and response, care and mutual responsibility — and not just in maternity. A shift from adversarial litigation to collective responsibility in a rapid resolution and redress scheme is a step in the right direction.

Consultation is open until May 26, 2017.

Shawn

Breech holiday, Frankfurt – from Olvindablog

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 […]

via Breech holiday, Frankfurt — Olvindablog

Visca les natges! Barcelona breech training

(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.

“Give it a wiggle” / “Donar una sacsejada” !

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.

— Shawn

Elevate & Rotate from Shawn Walker on Vimeo.


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.

Hospital Sant Pau

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

Running start

frank breech

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.

This mother is raising and lowering her torso with the aid of her partner’s thighs.

Dropping her torso, arching her back and tucking her hips under.

Moving her hips back towards her heels.

Squatting back onto her heels. This creates maximum space in the pelvic outlet as the breech passes through the ischial spines. The mother will not ‘sit’ on her baby, preventing the birth, but will instead raise her hips again when she instinctively feels the urge to do so.

Rising up again, arching her back. Creating space in the pelvic inlet as the shoulders and head enter.

Squatting back down. Spontaneous movements constantly change pelvic diameters as the baby rotates through.

Torso and hips rise up as baby rumps. Thrusting hips forward has a protective effect on the perineum and opens the inlet to assist engagement of shoulders/head. ‘Fetal ejection reflex.’

Pressure as baby descends. The mother drops her torso down again.

Moving into Running Start. The baby has not completely rotated to sacrum-anterior. The mother spontaneously lifts the leg on the side of the fetal legs, creating further space to assist rotation of the torso and descent of the anterior arm.

Significant descent occurs with the next contraction.

Running start continues to make space for gravity to do it work.

Almost there.

Straight to his mother’s arms.

The physiological process of welcome continues without interruption.

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.

New RCOG guideline published today!

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.

Victoria and Kirin Owal celebrate the healthy birth of their twins (#2 breech) with their NHS Team.

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).

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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.

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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).

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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.’

Dr Susanne Albrechtsen teaching breech skills

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.

Shawn

Wales and the breech

Cardiff midwife Carmen Rubio spots the nalgas!

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!

Emma Spillane, Shawn Walker & Shelly Jones at the Royal Welsh Showground (early in the morning …)

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!

Dr Liliana Docan giving instruction on manoeuvres

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.

Shawn

Aberystwyth

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