North of England Breech Conference II

March 31-April 1, 2017

Anke Reitter: Upright Breech Skills & Recognizing and Managing Breech Complications

April 1, 2017

Dr. Anke Reitter is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist and a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. She currently directs the maternity department at the Sachsenhausen Hospital in Frankfurt. She specializes in breech, multiple pregnancies, high-risk pregnancies, and ultrasound--and is also an IBCLC!

I would also recommend reading Anke's presentation about upright breech maneuvers from the 2016 Amsterdam Breech Conference. I omitted repeated material in this summary. Shawn Walker's posts about nuchal arms are also very helpful.

Reviewed by Anke Reitter, May 29, 2017

After seeing Gail Tully's presentation, Anke mentioned that she was very inspired--as usual! Her talk fit very well into Gail's regarding how the levels of the pelvis require different actions.

Anke showed a video of a mother who had had a previous cesarean after an attempted vaginal breech birth; the cesarean happened at full dilation due to abnormal fetal heart tones. Her next baby was also breech, and the mother was very motivated to have a vaginal birth. The baby was born to its torso and the arms came out, but the body remained slightly oblique. Anke noted that the head was tipped back and sideways. The solution: helping bring the head back into the midline. After that, they were able to flex the head. This birth was a classic example of when to help in a vaginal breech birth.

She and Andrew Bisits have created a flowchart showing normal (green) and abnormal (red).

"Hands-off" if progress
"Hands-on" if delay

For Anke, rumping--meaning the bitrochanteric diameter is born--is the point of no return. A baby that has rumped has to be delivered vaginally. She asked the audience: do you all agree on this definition?

From Anke's time in Bergen, Norway, she learned everyone there does Løvset for breeches. They don't know other maneuvers; they "really love Løvset." The key message is to grab something with a bony structure to protect the baby's internal organs, either the pelvic girdle (mother on back) or the shoulder girdle (mother on hands & knees).

Anke remarked that in Sydney, where Dr. Andrew Bisits works, most of the babies have no problems with the arms. She wonders whether we have maybe started to interfere too early? She turned to ask him, "Andrew, why do you have so few situations when the arms/shoulders are held up?"

Andrew: When we are using the birth stool with the possibility of going to H&K, the arms sometimes might be a bit extended, but they're always low enough to release easily. I've never encountered anything as difficult as that.

In real life, if there is a nuchal arm, the body often is not entirely out and you have to go inside the mother to get to the shoulders.

Elevate and Rotate: When you turn a baby with the shoulder grip, don't pull down. You might even want to push the baby up just a bit, and then turn it. Turn in the direction the baby's arm is pointing. She often feels some resistance as the baby's nuchal arm is just starting to slip past the head. Overcome that resistance, but remember: no traction. Turn a full 180, then 90 back. The baby should end facing the mother's anus.From Louwen et al. 

Once the bitrochanteric diameter is out, you should have the whole baby out within 3-5 minutes.

Betty-Anne Daviss: There's been back and forth about whether you should be leaning forward on the bed. If you get a mother up on the birth stool, it often fills the hollow of the sacrum and the baby comes right down. When we watch these videos of mothers doing prayer positions, that's the opposite of getting mothers upright on the stool. I'm trying to reconcile that.

Jane Evans: Regarding Andrew's comment: maybe leaning too far forward encourages the anterior arm to be caught.

Gail Tully: Yes, you're closing the brim if you lean over.

Time is an issue. After you release the arms, you still need to be aware of what's happening. Don't wait 1-2-3-4-5 minutes after the arms are born, even if the other signs are good. Be proactive, especially if you have less experience.

Gail: Yes, because you don't know what you are going to run into next.

Shawn Walker: With women who have high BMIs, sometimes we need to lift the buttocks up. This releases the soft tissues to help the head release. It's a soft tissue dystocia.

Anke noted that providers have learning curves as they are adapting to doing breeches on hands and knees. She showed a video of an American OB doing a H&K breech. This OB was hands-on several times when the signs did not warrant an intervention. The audience was visibly wincing and groaning at several points.

After we saw the video, Anke made an important point--this video shows us that learning is a good thing. If we do these trainings and if we start talking about upright breech, we need to really understand the things we learn in these conferences. If you offer a study day, it needs to make an impact in the right direction. This OB had the best intentions and it's great that she offers women the choice of a VBB. The birth would have been spontaneous if she hadn't touched the baby. But there's a learning curve at the beginning for providers. Anke herself had a learning curve.

Shawn: In this video, we need to exercise compassionate understanding that there's this learning curve. Don't attack and be judgmental. We all change and adapt as providers. We need to understand providers' learning curves so we can teach more effectively.

Jane: It's really difficult for some people to turn things over when they are used to seeing women on their backs. Most people understand if I talk about following the curve of the sacrum. It's easier to follow the sacral curve if you do the birth "upside-down" (having the woman upright or hands and knees).

Anke mentioned a few indirect maneuvers to help free the head:
1. Gluteal lift: It can release enough soft tissue to help a non-nuchal arm come out.
2. Maternal pelvic shift (push mother's entire pelvis forward): This will help deliver the head according to the pelvic curve.
3. Controlled head delivery using the shoulder press (Frank's nudge) and modified MSV

Why still offer vaginal breech delivery?
Around 30% of breeches are still undiagnosed when labor begins. All maternity units must be able to provide skilled supervision for vaginal breech birth where a woman is admitted in advanced labor. Protocols for this eventuality should be developed.

A woman should be referred to a center if her own unit cannot provide the service. Centralization is the best strategy to ensure the most experienced team involved. You need a 24/7 "breech squad."

Vaginal breech birth prevents the first cesarean and thus a scarred uterus. Offering vaginal breech birth is an important factor in reducing the cesarean rate among primips. VBB can also help lower the repeat cesarean rate. This is important at both an individual and population level.

Finally, cesareans have a major impact on the life span of women in developing countries. 

(Rixa's note: as an example, see Dr. Thomas van den Akker's presentation "Who pays the price?" from the 2016 Amsterdam Breech Conference.)

Original conference report published here (with pictures).