My ECV Experience

Picking up from my last post in a much better state of mind than I was then, I’m happy to report that my breech baby is breech no more! We went ahead with the ECV on Saturday at my doctor’s advice and it was a great success – more than that, it was much better than I expected. I wanted to write a post about my experience since I so enjoyed reading these type of posts when I was making up my mind about the procedure.

So, as I wrote in my previous post our cheeky third baby flipped to breech at around 28 weeks (she had been head down at my previous appointments) and did. not. budge! Her head was firmly lodged right under my ribs so she was constantly reminding me of her breech status. I initially was really against getting an ECV at all because of the (minor) risks to baby and thought I would rather have a c-section and take the greater risks on myself instead of baby.

The main reason I decided to try the ECV was because of my OB. She is a really experienced and respected OB in Hong Kong and pretty much everyone you meet has had a baby delivered by her. She was really for the ECV and said that she wouldn’t even attempt if she thought it was risky – she said mine was a 5/10 in terms of difficulty and she would never attempt more than an 8. She also ordered every possible scan and test to put my mind at ease. I had an ultrasound on Wednesday with a sonographer to determine exact fluid levels, blood flow and cord position (I was terrified of the cord being around her neck) and had another appointment with my OB on Friday just to go through everything again. I have to say her bedside manner leaves something to be desired (I’m slightly terrified of her!) but when it came to this I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else.

SO the ECV was scheduled for 10.30am and we had to arrive at 8.30am to check in and get prepped. Since we had never actually been to the hospital (The Matilda on The Peak) this was quite good for us anyway as we’d been meaning to do a trial run. It took us about 25 minutes from Stanley which is about how long the hospital run took with the older two kids back in Sydney. Relief! You may have read before about my paranoia of giving birth in a taxi…

We arrived and checked in and then were taken to a delivery room in the maternity unit. This was quite a full on experience for me – we walked past the nursery and I burst into tears. Seeing the light machine in the delivery suite brought Walt’s birth flooding back. It really hit me that this is happening, which I think was really needed. I’ve been so busy with the other two kids and really focusing on the “breech baby/c-section” thing so much that I haven’t given much thought to the fact that we’re having a real live baby. Now I feel more like I did in the lead up to the other births, more relaxed and ready.

Once I’d changed into a gown the (lovely) midwife took me through a lot of consent forms and talked me through the risks of the procedure. The other quite intense thing about the experience is that you need to be completely prepped for an emergency c-section as there is a risk of baby going into distress during an ECV (from the research I’ve done the risk is about 5%, but as my OB said that really varies depending on your doctor and their approach). So you need to fast (I couldn’t sleep and ate a bowl of cereal at 4am, pre-food cutoff!) and shave and be properly admitted. It’s a good idea to get your head around this possibility prior to the procedure. I don’t think I really did. As the clock ticked down to 10.30 I started really freaking out about the c-section again and had to do some little meditation exercises.

At 10am the midwife gave me the first dose of the terbutaline syrup, the drug they use to relax the uterus – actually this is the same stuff that’s in a ventolin inhaler, which incidentally I have used hundreds of times before as an asthmatic! So I was needlessly worried about this (although it does make your heart race really fast – more on that later). My pulse increased a little but by the time my OB arrived at just after 10.30 she could still feel a lot of tightening so I got a second dose. About 15 minutes later I could actually feel how relaxed my muscles were, so I knew it would be good to go.

My OB came back and was straight into it. She gave me no warning (as I said, bedside manner) and had a student with her so basically just said “Put your hands over my hands so you can feel the pressure I’m applying” and then went for it. And may I say, significant pressure was applied! Baby’s bottom was engaged in my pelvis (I’m sure she was fully prepared to come out that way, but I was not so keen) so she used her thumb and forefinger to forcefully push that out first. Deep breathing was very useful! I then got a contraction so had to lay there like that for about a minute until that stopped. Incidentally I don’t think anything is kicking off in that regard, just that playing around with the baby like that can cause the uterus to contract.

Next came the really painful bit – she had to use her other hand to force the baby’s head out from my rib cage and slowly push it around. I think this was just painful because it’s a more sensitive area of the body, and also maybe because her head has been squished into my stomach for so long. I’m not sure but again I had to use my breathing. The OB continued to slowly edge the head along while holding the buttocks up and within about two minutes, she flipped! I was amazed as it was so quick and I really hadn’t been sure it would work. My OB seemed quite pleased with herself and was talking about her great success rate this year, and spirits were high.

I immediately felt so much more prepared for what lies ahead. I also felt a HUGE relief from my stomach/rib cage area and a little more pressure down below. Funnily enough the shape of my “bump” has also changed completely, as the head is obviously lower down in the pelvis the bump looks smaller and less out in front. It looks a lot like when I was pregnant with Heike, more like that typical “girl” bump everyone speaks of.

After my OB left I had to stay hooked up to the CTG for a further hour to monitor baby. She was fine (she is such an active baby!) and we were able to leave fairly quickly. The one thing that sucked was that the drug did not wear off for hours – I was really shaky and headachey all through the afternoon and pretty much just took to bed. I know I am really sensitive to medications (hence why I have always wanted natural births, I can’t even take strong painkillers) and was already wary of the drug so it didn’t surprise me that after two doses it took its time wearing off. From what I’ve read online, a lot of women have this experience.

Yesterday, Sunday, I woke up feeling fine if a little bruised and in a much better mental state than I have in weeks. I can’t explain why I was feeling so down about baby being breech but I just was. I think mostly just nerves and I hate uncertainty. Anyway, I had to go into the hospital again to have another CTG just to keep an eye on baby, and she was fine. Kicking madly the entire time. The midwife did suggest that since she is so active and the head is not engaged I should be careful she doesn’t flip again! We discussed lots of walking etc and already today she feels lower.

I’m about to head in for my third day of monitoring, which is really just a precaution and frankly I’m so glad my OB takes it. I am enough of a worrier as it is! It is very comforting to sit and listen to baby’s heartbeat for an hour.

Anyway, I would highly recommend trying an ECV to anyone who is faced with the decision – because I know from experience it does feel like a big one and many women choose not to go ahead with it for various reasons. As for me from now, I guess we’re into the spicy food/sex/long walks phase of the pregnancy, although since I have the energy for none of that we could be in for quite a wait!

Z x



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