My Experience with an External Cephalic Version (ECV)

At 36-weeks pregnant we found out that our baby was breech. The doctor had suspected it at 34 weeks and we confirmed by ultrasound at my 36-week appointment that baby girl was indeed Frank Breech (head up and feet up). I was so disappointed because I really did not want to have a C-Section. My doctor told me that I was a good candidate for an ECV (External Cephalic Version) which is a procedure where they try and turn the baby manually by applying pressure to my abdomen and push the baby into the head down position. She said that it only works about half of the time, so it isn’t guaranteed to be successful. I immediately said yes, that I would like to schedule the procedure because I was willing to try anything to improve my chances of having a vaginal delivery. We scheduled the procedure for a week later when I would be 37 weeks and 4 days (she did not want to do it before I was 37 weeks incase baby needed to be born via emergency C-section after they tried to flip her). 

She recommended I try the spinning babies exercises to try and encourage baby on my own, but spoiler alert- they did not work. I spent the week doing weird stretches in an inclined position, reading ECV stories, researching C-sections, preparing everything incase baby decided to come and honestly, crying because I was so worried that it wouldn’t work. Eventually Monday rolled around and it was go time. 

Procedure Day

We were told to arrive at the hospital in labor and delivery at 9:30 AM for the procedure scheduled at 10:30. I thought that was a lot of extra time but it actually flew by. We got checked in, shown to our room, changed into a hospital gown and then got set up for some monitoring of the baby. A doctor came in to check to make sure the baby was still breech (she was), I got an IV inserted for fluids, and the anesthesiologist came in to describe the spinal block. 

The spinal block was optional but I elected to have one done for two reasons, one because I had read the procedure would be painful and I thought that if I was numb, then the doctors could “give it their all” without me clenching and wincing in pain – and hopefully improve the odds of it working. But I also read a study that showed that using an epidural actually did increase the chances of it working. The spinal was honestly the part I was most worried about of the whole procedure, but again, was willing to try anything to increase my chances. 

Anyway, before I knew it, it was time to walk back to the OR (they do the procedure in the OR incase the baby is in destress and they have to deliver by emergency C-Section). They had Miguel wait in the room until after they were finished inserting the spinal. 

Inserting the spinal did pinch and hurt a little bit in my back that was uncomfortable but that part only lasted a few seconds. Then they had me lay back on the table and looked at baby using the ultrasound and felt around to decide how they were going to flip her and they also inserted a shot into my belly to relax my uterine muscles (which hurt a little bit because my belly wasn’t completely numb yet). At this point I started feeling numb but also started feeling nauseous (which they warned could happen). They did start administering some anti-nausea medicine into my IV, but I started throwing up before it could take effect. (Throwing up while laying down is not a pleasant experience but bless the nurse who held the vomit bucket and my head while I puked – which I hadn’t been allowed to eat so there wasn’t much to throw up). 

Miguel walked in during all that (lol) but I started to feel better quickly and then it was time to start. And honestly the next part was a blur because it went so fast. I didn’t even watch it happening, but after like 30 seconds I heard happy expressions – they flipped her! They said it was one of the easiest ECVs they had done. I was kind of like “that’s it?” but I was so so happy they were able to flip her! I had read that it could take up to 15 minutes so I was expecting it to take a little longer. The other good news about a quick ECV is that they didn’t have to press for very long or very hard so that meant I wouldn’t have a sore belly.

Post Procedure

They rolled me back to my room for monitoring to make sure baby and me were still doing well. I had to get hooked back up the belly monitors, blood pressure monitor, heart monitors, oxygen monitor for two hours. Which wasn’t bad at first, I basically just talked with my nurse and looked at my phone for the first hour and it flew by. Then the spinal really started wearing off and I got SO ITCHY. It was absolutely miserable – especially my belly. I ordered food and listened to my podcast to try to get that last hour to go quicker. Finally, the second hour was up and the nurse came back to remove all of my monitors which helped a little with the itching as well to not have the belly monitor straps on. At this point the spinal had worn off enough that I was able to walk but my butt and pelvis area was still almost completely numb. I decided to wait a little bit longer before going home. One more hour went by and I was able to get up by myself and get dressed. We were discharged to leave at 2:15. 

So all in all it took less than 5 hours and the worst part was spinal because it hurt going in, made me throw up, made me super itchy and took a while to wear off. Honestly, if I knew she was going to spin so easily, I probably wouldn’t have done any medication – but oh well. I am writing this the evening after the procedure and I am feeling completely normal. The numbness completely wore off by about 3:30 and I feel nothing else abnormal. My only concern now is that she has or will flip back to head up or sideways, but the doctor said if that happens we can do the flip again and then induce me right after to make sure she is in the correct position. I am hoping that doesn’t have to happen but I am already feeling like she moved already but I can’t tell for sure. But if we have to do it again, I am hopeful that it will work again which make me hopeful, and I also would probably decide to do it med-free next time.

Update: after my doctor appointment two days later, the doctor said she was still head down so hopefully she stays that way!

I know that was super long and detailed, but when I was trying to find real-life ECV stories, I couldn’t find a ton that were detailed like this so I wanted to share my experience in hopes that it helps someone else who may be facing an ECV. Please feel free to reach out with any questions too! 

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