Pregnancy | Women's Health
September 2, 2016

Turning around a breech baby — one mother’s story

by External Cephalic Version

An external cephalic version is a procedure to turn a breech baby while still in the mother’s belly. Here’s one mother’s her experience.


Growing up, my sister, Melissa, and I often heard stories about Melissa being breech and how my mom had to have a cesarean section because of it.

I never dreamed that almost 30 years after my sister’s birth, I would have to consider a C-section for the same reason. Thankfully, my story turned out differently than my mom’s because I had a successful external cephalic version (aka: a version) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

We learned that my daughter, Adeline was breech when I was about six months pregnant and tried many alternative methods to get her to turn.  At one point, we thought Adeline had turned, but looking back, I think we were wrong.

I really wanted a vaginal birth, so our last option was to have an external cephalic version, a procedure to turn around a breech baby before labor begins.

I spent a lot of time talking with people who had both successful and unsuccessful versions, as well as health professionals.

The positives and negatives

Important details that made a version more likely to be successful:

  • This was my second baby, making my abdomen more pliable during a version.
  • I had a more than average amount of amniotic fluid (low fluid can injure the baby).
  • Adeline had not dropped into the pelvis.
  • She was frank breech (bottom down, not feet down).

The factors that were against us:

  • Adeline was a big baby. Though I had a big baby before (my son Elias was 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and they estimated Adeline was 8 pounds, 6 ounces), big babies can be harder to turn.
  • I had an anterior placenta (my placenta was in front of the baby), which makes things a bit riskier.
  • I was 39 weeks and one day. I have read that versions are more successful at 36-37 weeks, but my provider did not do versions prior to 39 weeks.

The hospital staff, including my midwife, really prepared me for the strong possibility of a C-section. No one seemed that optimistic, which was discouraging.

But I didn’t want to give up. Somehow, my heart still felt like we had to do it.

I was offered an epidural for the version. I was torn about having an epidural for the version because it would mean that I would have it for the birth (I wanted to try to have a natural birth). However, research has shown that versions on breech babies are more successful when the mother has an epidural because she is more relaxed.

So I decided to go for it. Ultimately, if I wanted a vaginal birth, I felt like it was the best decision.

The version

Before the procedure, the tension was palpable. Close to 15 people were in the room.

The procedure took less than five minutes. Adeline and I were monitored the whole time to make sure neither of us went into distress. They did an ultrasound to determine which way Adeline was facing, what her position was, and how they were going to rotate her.

I was laying flat on my back for the version and two doctors stood on either side of me. They slowly pressed into my stomach and turned Adeline. Because of the epidural, I did not have any pain, just a TON of pressure. At one point, I almost asked them to stop, but I gritted my teeth, knowing they were making progress and that it wouldn’t last long.

When they got her to turn, everyone started cheering. Some clapped. I cried. My husband Matthew cried.

It was amazing.

In retrospect, I could not have withstood the version without the epidural, and I would recommend it to anyone who was going to undergo this procedure.

Jessica Turner is part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s social media team. She loves spending time with her family, memory keeping and blogging on her popular lifestyle blog, The Mom Creative.


Was your child breech? Did you try any methods to try to get him or her to turn, or did the baby do it on his own? Share your experiences in the comments below.


Expecting or considering having a baby? Know all your pregnancy care options available through Vanderbilt Women’s Health.

11 thoughts on “Turning around a breech baby — one mother’s story”

  1. Jessica Turner says:

    Whew! I can’t imagine how much it hurt. So glad things went well anyway for both of your deliveries.

  2. Jessica Turner says:

    I think just that few weeks earlier than mine probably made it a bit less painful too. So glad that you had a successful version. I also tried the music bit – and a flashlight, and frozen vegetables. I did it all – ha! 🙂

  3. Jessica Turner says:

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Heather says:

    Mine was breech but he kicked his way out at 32 weeks so we weren’t given an option to try and turn. I had to have an emergency c-section at 32 weeks 6 days. His umbilical cord also presented with his feet. He is my first.

  5. Kimberly Arnold says:

    My third child was breech and they tried the external cephalic version with him and it didn’t work. Not best experience that I have ever had, that’s for sure. But I would never say that’s not an option for anyone because every situation is different.

  6. Kim says:

    I also had a version done at Vanderbilt with our 3rd child. The funny coincidence is that I was actually born breech myself..but my mother delivered me butt first, vaginally, and without any pain meds! But we decided to try the version because this was our 3rd child and had the first 2 kids vaginally with no problems so didn’t want to end with a c section for our last. However, my experience with the version was quite the opposite than this story! The version was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, worst than labor! So horrible that all I could do was cry, tears streaming down with no sound because I couldn’t speak a word! 2 doctors on top of my belly, pressing down n twisting! They tried this 3 times and the baby sprang right back to her original position as soon as they let go! I was 37 weeks so after no success we scheduled be section for 2 weeks later. When we went in for the section we found out that all of the amniotic fluid had drained out since the version cuz they had torn the sac and no one knew! Top it all off I developed staff infection in my incision and had a 4 inch deep hole in my stomach for weeks after the section that my hubby had to pack with medicated gauze til it closed!! Was a miserable experience..clearly the doctors who performed the version had no idea what they were doing:(

  7. Kirsten says:

    3 weeks ago today I went through the same thing. My daughter was in a full breech position and I was dilated to 3. She was 39 weeks and 1 day. I received my epidural and the doctor attempted to turn her. Unfortunately they were not able to do so. I had three vaginal deliveries before my daughter and was now having my first c section. I was terrified! All went well and now I have a beautiful and healthy little girl. Good luck to any mommy’s going through this.

  8. Crystal Hamilton says:

    My youngest son was a breech baby. He wasn’t suppose to be born until Feb 12, 2000. My husband and I went in on Feb 2nd to have the doctors to try and turn him around, but I the middle of the process something happened, and I started to bleed really bad on the inside, and my son was in distress. Last thing I remember was them saying Is we are about to lose them both, emergency C-section stat. But thanks to God and all the doctors and nurses we both made it out safe and sound. And now my son is 16yrs old.

  9. Wendy VerMeulen says:

    My first child was breech – feet down. I ended up having a C-section. Like you, I really wanted to have a vaginal birth. With my second child, the 20 week ultrasound already showed my son to be frank breech. My obstetrician was very much aware of my desire to have a VBAC. I knew throughout the pregnancy that my son did not reposition himself because I felt his feet kicking my bladder and I could feel his head under my ribs. At 37 weeks, it was confirmed that he was indeed breech. I had a number of risk factors including a large baby, low amount of amniotic fluid and an anterior placenta. Like you, I felt in my heart that this was something I wanted to do and needed to try.

    I was not offered an epidural. Instead I was given an intravenous smooth muscle relaxer to make my uterus more pliable. I also noticed that the tension in the room was very high. I remember one doctor was manning the ultrasound machine. The other doctor got on the hospital bed. He pushed and turned at the same time. I did not have any pain and only some pressure but not an unbearable amount. It didn’t take very long for the doctor to rotate my son into the proper position. After it was over, my concern was whether or not my son would reposition himself back into a breech in the next few weeks. The doctor assured my this was highly unlikely as his head was right above the birth canal. With the low amount of amniotic fluid in my uterus, my son was pretty well locked into place.

    My son is now 23 years old.

  10. Tonya says:

    I was put into labor at 26 weeks due to toximia. After being induced, I felt him turning a lot. He was becoming stressed too. He was breach & the Dr tried 3 times to manually turn him & he would flip back each time. After some pushing to get him right, they did an emergency C-section. He was 2 lbs 4oz. He is now 23 years old.

  11. Tammy Kelly says:

    My daughter, the fourth child of my four, was breech at about 36 weeks. The OB on duty that day said I would need to schedule my C section before I left the office that day. I had delivered my previous 3 babies (boys, 2 over 8lbs, 1 over 9) vaginally. I told the Dr. that day that I wanted to talk to my preferred physician at the large practice about a version. Dr. Robert F. Elder was absolutely all about it! He scheduled me for the next week to perform the version. It was just the doc, a nurse, my husband, my upright baby and me in the room. I was given an IV of something (valium-ish?) and with a few firm, swift, strategically placed movements of his hands, my talented physician performed a successful version with little to zero pain for me. She was born a few weeks later healthy and beautiful, 9lbs. 4 ozs. 🙂

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