My ECV Experience
If you’re looking into ECV, your baby is probably in a breech position, you’re at least 36 weeks into your pregnancy, and you are trying to have a natural vaginal birth while your doctor is recommending you for a planned c-section.
Hi, welcome to Navigating Life, if you’re wondering if you should do an ECV, I hope this post will give you some details to make an informed decision from a mom who has been through it.
A little spoiler alert here, I did ECV and was not successful, and went on with planned c-section as scheduled.
What is an ECV?
ECV stands for External cephalic version. It is a non-invasive procedure used to turn a fetus from a breech position or side-lying (transverse) position into a head-down position so that you can try for a vaginal or natural birth according to webbmd.
How it all began
Here’s a little bit about my pregnancy journey and how I ended up doing an ECV.
I had a smooth pregnancy throughout the 1st and 2nd trimester, and during my 3rd trimester, my baby was already in a breech position.
My doctor reassured me that the baby has a lot of time and room to turn, so I should not worry.
Each month passed, we had a check-up, my baby remained in the same position.
During that time, I asked if I could do anything to assist the baby to turn naturally.
If you look up on the internet, there are a lot of ways to do it. My doctor told me there’s no need to and they may not be effective.
So I did nothing. To my disappointment at 36 weeks, my doctor announced that I had to do a planned c-section due to my baby being in extended/frank breech.
I was sad I couldn’t have a natural birth. Before 3rd trimester, I had taken a hypnobirthing course so I could deliver in the most peaceful way possible. But it was now impossible.
I was also very upset because my baby was already in breach from the beginning of 3rd trimester. We knew about it and had plenty of time to do something about it.
But I trusted my doctor’s advice and did nothing till it was too late. At 38 weeks, my baby was too big to turn. she’s quite lodged in place.
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What did I do next?
This was where I did plenty of research and sought a second opinion from various doctors.
After reading up I realize that the natural ways to turn the baby on our own are out of the question for me now that my baby is so big. There’s not much room left for her to move.
So I found another doctor from another hospital who apparently delivers breech babies naturally.
I also read up about having a doctor to conduct an ECV procedure so that I could deliver the baby naturally if it’s successful.
I immediately made bookings to both doctors and met with them within the week.
To my disappointment, the first doctor was not confident in delivering my baby naturally.
After meeting the last doctor, I was hopeful because it seems she has done ECV many times over. She has an 80% success rate in turning the baby around and allowed moms to give birth naturally.
I was hopeful.
I proceeded with the ECV procedure (without my doctor’s knowledge).
As I’ve already mentioned in the intro above, the procedure failed and I went on with my planned c-section as scheduled and delivered a healthy baby at 3.3kg, 48cm long.
The shock of my life: What I experienced during an ECV
So one of the biggest shock experienced was how painful the ECV procedure was.
I agree with what Kim Kardashian said, that the ECV is potentially more painful than labor. At least she had a successful procedure and could deliver naturally.
Prior to deciding to do an ECV, I did a lot of research and most of the articles I read and videos I watched seemed to portray that ECV is a painless experience.
From the information I gather, it is going to be an “uncomfortable” experience.
Well, “uncomfortable” is definitely an understatement!
The articles would say it will be “some pain” or cause “discomfort” and I was thinking,
“Okay I can handle discomfort. I handle lower back discomfort all the time.”
“I get bad period cramps on a monthly basis, I can manage that.”
But man I was so wrong.
What I experienced was more than “discomfort”, it was real pain, throughout the whole procedure!
All I could do was react in shock. My fingers were grasping the bars, my feet were flexing and pushing against the mattress, my eyes were shut tight and tears were rolling on the side of my cheek as I bite my lips to hold in my scream in reaction to the pain my whole body was experiencing.
All I could think of was how much I wish she’d stop!
But I couldn’t bring myself to stop her because I needed to give this procedure a fair chance if I wanted to have a natural birth.
Just imagine, you have a huge watermelon in your belly, and this professional is pushing up on your watermelon against your abdomen and trying to turn it with her bare hands from the outside of your belly.
Maybe not all women experience the same degree of pain. Maybe the pain I experienced was because I was so full, that there was very little room for my little one to move.
Whatever the reason, the pain was excruciating. I was surprised I didn’t go into labor there and then.
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The length of the procedure
My husband was crouching next to me, providing me support, telling me to breathe, and holding my hand. And even he was traumatized during the 20 minutes procedure.
Yes, the whole procedure only took 20 minutes, and you know what?
It was the longest 20 minutes of my life. It was excruciating that every second felt like forever.
And mind you, during this 20 minutes, the ECV was conducted twice.
The second attempt, the doctor thinks the baby probably lodge in my cervix, so she suggested to push my baby up from my cervix and turn her.
If you’re imagining how this works, she had to stuff her fingers from under and inside to ‘dislodge’ my baby from my cervix.
And yes, it was another layer of pain.
During the procedure, while I was trying to take deep breaths and take the pain in.
I remember seeing glimpses of the doctor using all her might. She was straining through her gritted teeth and sweat on her forehead while she leaned in all her weight to push and turn my baby.
Imagine Michael Jackson doing the gravity-defying trick where he leans towards the floor but still remained standing without his hands.
That’s my doctor’s posture as she was pushing on me, except all her weight was on my belly.
It was nothing like the research I did where I watched youtube videos of professionals conducting a tranquil and successful turning of the baby.
My experience was nothing like the video below! Look at 4 min 30s onwards.
By the time my doctor was done with the second attempt, she was exhausted and cannot attempt anymore for the day.
That’s how much strength and power she exerted on my belly.
My thought process on ECV
Now I’m not here to discourage you from doing an ECV.
I was hopeful myself when I discovered such procedure exists.
But alas, I fall in the 40+% category that was unsuccessful.
How I wish I was one of the successful women out there. But I wasn’t.
I’m just here to share what it’s like when it is not successful, and how much pain it involves.
I was ready for “some pain” and “discomfort”. I was not ready for an excruciating traumatic experience.
In hindsight, if I knew how much pain it involves before going in for the procedure maybe I wouldn’t be as traumatized as I was.
I wish I was more prepared for the pain, or that the doctor would preempt how painful it can get.
The fact that the research I did and my doctor seem to downplay the pain or evade the question made me feel very misled and misinformed because I’m sure the doctors knew full well what it involves.
Maybe it was their professional experience not to talk about pain to spare the patience’s anxiety.
I don’t know what’t the right way to approach this.
But I feel if I’m prepared for the worst, I am probably more equipped emotionally for what’s to come.
The doctor walked me through how the procedure works and all the risks that entails. I fully understood that and was ready to take that risk.
But the degree of pain inflicted on me that was never discussed or brought up was something I feel was not right.
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Did I regret my decision on doing an ECV?
Now after all my traumatic experience on ECV, do I regret going ahead with the procedure?
Well yes and no. Here’s why:
No, I did not regret my decision because:
- My husband and I were more settled towards a planned c-section. This is because we now know that we’ve tried our best and given enough chance in exploring the alternatives that were available.
- I will no longer question myself in the future. I am a big “what if…” person, and I know I will look back and question if we did enough for what we wanted (which was a natural birth).
Yes, to some degree I have some regrets:
- I regret that I had to go through so much pain, and nothing to show for it. If I went through all that pain, and the baby did turn, it would be all worth it. It was not. And it’ll be worst if I did go into labor, which leads to my next point.
I was thankful:
- I was grateful that through that immense pain and pressure exerted on me and my baby, we did not need to go for an emergency c-section. For I had a smooth delivery experience with my planned c-section 1 week later and delivered a healthy and happy baby. If we were to go into labor during ECV, I know our experience in welcoming our new baby would not be a pleasant one. In fact, it’ll be an added stress and pressure to all that pain that I was already going through.
- As much as I was ready for the risks of going into labor during ECV, my biggest wish is that I don’t. And thank god it did not happen.
- Through this experience, we have learned a lot and it has made us wiser.
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What advice I’d give to a mom who is looking into ECV?
If you’re reading this article you must be researching and reading up on ECV or ECV stories. So keep that up.
As a checklist, look into understanding:
- The risks involving an ECV
- How the procedure’s like
- Talk to your doctor about the degree of pain and what options are available. (I don’t know why my doctor downplayed or evaded the topic, my husband and I would have appreciated the heads up and discuss in detail.)
- You need to take quick action once you find out your baby is in a breech position. (Bear in mind some baby just cannot be turned)
- Bring people whom you know will give you comfort and support, you’ll need it during and after the ECV.
- I’d recommend doing ECV on a Friday night so you have the weekend to recover from the sore in your body. (In my case it was the sore and the trauma.)
Here’re a few stories of slightly different encounters with ECVs:
- Michelle had an ECV that was unsuccessful. She had an epidural and had a more bearable experience.
- CeeCeeSparkles had a successful procedure. She had a muscle relaxer drug which helped her relax her abdomen muscle (similar to mine) but it did not quell the pain.
- EvidenceBasedBirth has some collection of ECV experiences.
Over to you
I hope this post may be helpful to you in any way. And don’t forget to grab yourself a FREEBIE.
I wish you all the best in your journey and hope you’d experience a successful ECV if you decide to go on with the procedure.
If you have had an ECV, any stories or additional advice to share that will benefit the next mom?
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