I Had an ECV: External Cephalic Version



I Had an ECV | Denver Metro Moms BlogI had a “normal,” “average” pregnancy more or less.

Aside from the unpleasant symptoms, I didn’t really have any problems. All was going according to plan, until my last ultrasound revealed that the baby was breech. That perfect little head-down guy had decided to turn around at some point. Sure, I could try to get him to flip around on my own (and I tried!), but if I didn’t, I would have to have a C-section. So we scheduled an External Cephalic Version (ECV) for when I would be approximately 37 weeks, just in case. What is an ECV, you ask? I had no idea either until I had to have one! An ECV is when a doctor manually turns the baby by pushing and pulling on the outside of your pregnant belly. I asked the doctor how successful these ECVs are, and he said they work less than 50% of the time, but it was worth a shot to try to avoid a C-section.

When I got home from the ultrasound appointment, I was pretty unsettled. None of this was in my plan (haha!)! I YouTube’d some ECVs and freaked. In the mean time, I tried everything to get this baby to flip – no such luck.

If you find yourself in the position of having an ECV, or you’re just curious, here’s a play-by-play of my experience:

  1. Check into the hospital – an ECV can cause you to go into labor, so to be sure you’re taken care of, the procedure is done in the hospital.
  2. Answer a billion questions and have the baby monitored for a couple hours. I had been having regular contractions for months (no clue why) – so I was giving tons of IV fluids to try to calm them down. It worked a bit, but also made me have to pee every 5 minutes.
  3. Get ready for the fun! The primary doctor comes in and does a sonogram to see where the baby an the umbilical cord are sitting.
  4. Another doctor comes in to assist. Your entire stomach gets lubed up with more ultrasound fluid.
  5. One doctor pushes the baby’s rump, and the other pulls down his top half slowly. It’s like a slow deep tissue massage. Delicate yet extremely forceful at the same time.
  6. Breathe deeply and try to focus on something other than the pain. Some women say ECVs don’t hurt. They do. Now that I have something to compare it to – I’d say active labor at 4-5 cm dilated. Yeah.
  7. Stop halfway to check the baby’s position and monitor heart, etc. Baby is horizontal inside of you at this point.
  8. Doctors resume and finish turning the baby. The entire version takes about three minutes.
  9. Monitor the baby for another hour or so and check the sonogram a few more times to see if the baby is still head-down and not in distress.

When my doctors finished the version and saw that it was a success, they were floored! My two doctors said it was the first time they had a successful version – many times the baby just won’t work with them or their positioning is too complicated.

Three weeks later when I went into labor, I was most anxious to see if my baby stayed head-down after my ECV. He did! I was able to have a vaginal delivery and my little boy (hopefully) has no memory of the mean old doctors that pushed and pulled on him a few weeks before his debut.

I Had a (Successful!) ECV_If you find yourself in the position to have an ECV, take a deep breath. I had a successful ECV, and so can you!

Have you had an ECV? Was yours successful? Let us know your story!


  1. Wold you be willing to send me an email with the nAmerican of the doctor who did this? My best friend is pregnant and 34 weeks with a breech baby. She lives in Boulder and works in Denver. She would really like to do an ECV.

  2. I had one too! Mine was successful, also, but only just barely. The doctor tried two or three times and wasn’t having any luck and then she asked if she could try one last time and it did. I was 37 1/2 weeks so he was pretty low and it took a lot for her to get him up to turn him. Such a crazy experience!!

  3. I had one too, and I found the pain manageable with breathing. They made three attempts in one session and my son’s heart rate dropped during the second attempt. Unfortunately, mine was ultimately unsuccessful, and the surgeon who did my C-section two weeks later said there was no way my son would have turned on his own. I was glad we didn’t try a second session under anesthesia with them “pushing harder,” which they offered when the first was unsuccessful. A friend had one and her cord was short, so it caused a placental abruption and she gave birth immediately by emergency C-section. I am always so glad when I hear stories of successful versions because I don’t think it’s the norm. Anyone who is considering having a version should have a birth plan and hospital bag with them when they show up for the procedure!


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