According to Ontario Prenatal Education, 3.6% of babies present breech (head up) at birth. 96% of breech babies born in 2001 were born by cesarean section (of which 86% were planned).
Last year, one of my clients (who wishes to remain anonymous) was one of the very small percentage of women who delivered her breech baby vaginally. Upon discovering her baby was presenting breech in the month leading up to delivery, she did lots of research on the benefits and risks of vaginal breech delivery versus planned cesarean section. For her, having a trained and skilled midwife help her deliver her baby safely vaginally was the most appealing option. However, she could not be guaranteed a doctor or midwife comfortable with vaginal breech delivery would be available for her birth in Toronto, so she chose to temporarily uproot her family to Ottawa to give birth with Betty-Anne Daviss.
Betty-Anne Daviss is a skilled midwife who has helped successfully deliver approximately 150 breech babies vaginally. Her track record is excellent and my client was excited and confident to be in her care. After conferring with local hospitals and Betty-Anne Daviss, she chose to give birth in the hospital instead of having a home birth in her hotel room so she would have the resources needed to feel safe and still have Betty-Ann Daviss as her primary caregiver.
When her labour began and she was admitted at the hospital, active labour came on quickly. To her dismay, the hospital staff were not as welcoming to Betty-Anne Daviss as they had indicated they would be, and she wasn't in the emotional headspace to change her plans as her labour had already progressed a lot. Unfortunately, the staff prohibited Betty-Anne Daviss from using any of her techniques during labour that would have helped my client to have a more comfortable labour and delivery (like she had hoped for). Instead, the midwife was forced to take a step back (to my client's great sadness). She still managed to give birth vaginally after an epidural was put in place but she felt bitter and disappointed by the experience. Especially since at the last minute the doctor had a student catch the baby. This was maddening to my client considering that Betty-Anne Daviss - a seasoned midwife whose support has been specifically sought out by my client - had not been allowed to participate in the birth as planned.
Although she succeeded in birthing her baby vaginally, it was heartbreaking for her what had happened with her midwife at the hospital and it led to a lot of discussion between us about issues in the maternity care system. She felt really passionate that women need more choice and midwives need more respect in childbirth. Hospitals need to be educated on normal birth and techniques that support it. There need to be more skilled professionals who are committed to normalizing breech delivery, just like Betty Ann Daviss. For any family with a baby presenting breech today, the most important thing is to have a health care provider that supports you and is skilled, compassionate, and respectful of your choices. I hope one day to be one of those professionals who you can call on for assistance with breech deliveries. But for now, trust the path that is right for you and remember that...
"Daviss believes that breech births are not only safe, but preferable to Caesarian sections. There's some evidence the medical community is coming around to her way of thinking. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada has published guidelines recommending doctors no longer do C-sections routinely when a baby is breech"