Sounds like a fancy spa treatment, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re not already familiar with the term, spoiler alert: It isn’t.
An ECV or “version” as it’s more typically called, is a procedure where your doctor lubes up your pregnant belly and uses their hands to try to manually flip a breech baby from the outside.
As I mentioned previously, Baby H has made himself/herself very comfortable lounging with a head in my left ribs, feet in my right ribs and butt nestled on top of what I can only figure is the nice cushion of my bladder. No wonder running was super uncomfortable as soon as s/he started getting bigger…
And after trying a number of natural remedies and old wives’ tales to get him/her to move, my doctor gave me the option of trying the ECV to see if we could encourage a somersault to get Baby in to the correct position for delivery (although some will attempt it, it’s my hospital’s policy to not deliver breech babies vaginally).
Because Google is every first-time pregnant woman’s best friend and worst nightmare, there are a lot of horror stories circulating about this procedure. Some are true — when it goes poorly, there are major risks that shouldn’t be taken lightly, such as tearing of the placenta, water breaking prematurely, emergency c-sections and even stillbirth — but there are also success stories, so I wanted to share my version of the version (pun intended) in case you find yourself at the same crossroads. Believe me, I spent many sleepless nights and hours on the Internet trying to make the decision whether or not to give it a shot.
First and foremost for any pregnant woman is the rule that there’s no eating or drinking past midnight the night before a version. This is fine if you’ve got a morning appointment, but I was scheduled for 12:30 p.m., so you can imagine the extra anxiety this created.
Both Ben and I prepped beforehand — I was really, really hoping Baby wouldn’t get distressed and have to be evacuated via an emergency c-section where they’d have to knock me out cold and I’d miss the actual birth — so we figured we’d prepare for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best. Hospital bags were packed and loaded in the car, and I took a quick shower before we went over and checked into the Labor and Delivery unit of the hospital a bit before noon.
Now, despite watching my sister give birth and visiting my father-in-law after back surgery, this was pretty much my first time IN a hospital, let alone being a patient there. So despite trying to keep my cool, I could feel my heart start to race and fought the instinct to flee as they led us to a delivery room and I was instructed to get into a gown and lay down in the hospital bed.
Once the nurses took my vitals and asked a bunch of health-related questions, they put sensors on my belly to monitor Baby and put me on my first-ever IV. I was having regular/minor contractions due to the dehydration of not being able to drink for a good 13 hours, so they gave me a liter of fluid in my IV…but it was really there just in case things went south and they needed it for anesthesia for surgery.
After getting a baseline for Baby’s heartbeat — strong and healthy! — I got a shot of terbutaline in my arm, which would relax the muscles of my uterus. A common side effect is feeling anxious, flushed or like your heart is racing, but I didn’t experience that, most likely because they gave me another pill by mouth to help counteract the effects.
At this point, I was actually hoping to feel woozy, but I was completely coherent when the doctor came in and double-checked the position of Baby H via ultrasound. Then she laid the bed back, oiled up my belly and quickly got to work.
I’m not gonna lie; it was pretty uncomfortable as her hands dug deep into my belly to try to grab the baby’s head and bottom and slowly twist him/her around. I tried to focus on my breathing, but my original in-for-four-out-for-seven plan went out the window as all I could do was brace myself, and try to relax as much as possible while clutching Ben’s hand for dear life.
The first direction (counter-clockwise) was halfway way successful; I could feel the baby move sideways, and I remember saying, “This feels SO WEIRD” as s/he rotated within me. But the butt simply couldn’t seem to make the turn out of my pelvis; the doctor checked the ultrasound to see if we were able to clear it, but Baby had promptly popped back into place.
They also checked heart rate at this point to see how Baby was tolerating being poked and prodded. I remember hearing a slower thumping rhythm as it dropped from the 130’s into the low 90’s at one point…and I started to panic that it would keep dropping, but — thank goodness — it went right back up to normal within a few seconds.
We attempted the other direction (clockwise), and the pain was intense. Any kind of controlled breathing disappeared and I had to fight to keep from holding my breath as the doctor tried using her knuckles to get underneath Baby’s butt in my pelvis. Ben could see the pain in my eyes and knew it was time to pull out the big guns and make a joke to try to distract me as she gave it one final try.
But Baby H simply wouldn’t budge.
I was relieved when the doctor called it because I didn’t think I could take another round at that point. Not only was she starting to break a sweat, but my stomach was also super sore and I felt shaky when I was cleared to get up to go to the bathroom a few minutes later.
She congratulated me for being such a trooper, and I thanked her for giving it her best shot. We agreed that if Baby was going to turn, this would have done it because neither of us was holding back, so she suggested that my pelvis angle might be playing a part in keeping the little guy or gal from being able to flip.
It was now around 2 p.m., and as the adrenaline slowly left my body, I realized I was starving. But Baby H still needed to be monitored for another hour before I could eat or drink, just to make sure everything was ok.
Fortunately his/her heartbeat remained strong and regular, so around 3:30 p.m. I was cleared to eat and Ben ran out to get me some ramen and steamed buns with fried chicken. In the meantime, my nurse brought in snacks — fruit plate with yogurt, blueberry muffin, cheese sticks, pudding cups, crackers and ice water — which I promptly wolfed down.
Baby H was still being monitored for an additional hour, but between the hospital snacks, food from Ben and TV in the room, I was a pretty happy camper. Both our vitals stayed steady, so we were able to check out around 5 p.m…and I proceeded to keep eating and drinking over the course of the evening until it was time to go to bed.
For the next few days, I was tired, had some minor cramping and felt like I got punched in the gut — or did a really, really hard ab workout — but Baby H was moving around as if nothing happened. My guess is that s/he is in there, just contentedly lounging, and I’m just fine with baking the little bun for a few more weeks.
In terms of where we go from here, there’s a very small chance that the baby will flip on his/her own in the home stretch, in which case we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but Baby H will most likely be making his/her debut via c-section. Regardless, I’m happy we gave it our best try, grateful for the wonderful hospital staff who took fantastic care of us and mostly just relieved that it didn’t end in an emergency situation.
And you know what? It’s taken me a while to process, but I’ve come to learn through my experience and by reading and hearing about others’ that Baby will come how s/he is meant to come. The best scenario isn’t necessarily the one you’ve planned for (Me: “Pregnancy really is a crap-shoot, isn’t it?” My doctor: “Welcome to OB!”); it’s the one in which both mom and baby emerge happy and healthy.
As much emphasis as we place on the “birth story,” I’ve realized that it’s really just a lot of unnecessary pressure on moms, and we need to take it easy on ourselves when things don’t go the way that we (or society) expects. After all, I’m pretty sure the best “stories” are the ones yet to come. 🙂
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional; this is merely my experience with a procedure from my personal perspective. It’s not meant to replace advice from your doctor, so be sure to check with him/her before making any medical decisions.