The ECV Procedure and Possible Risks

The ECV Procedure and Possible Risks

by / Wednesday, 27 January 2021 / Published in Birth Trauma
Pregnant woman laying down while a doctor places her hands on the mother's stomach.

One of the most common types of complications that occurs late in pregnancy is the baby being in a breech position, which is something that occurs in about 3-4% of all babies according to The Lancet. Early in pregnancy, it’s expected that babies won’t be positioned with their head down. But as pregnancies reach the point of being full-term, the more important it becomes for them to be in the head-down position for delivery. If a pregnancy is in the zone of 36-40 weeks and the baby hasn’t moved into the proper position, there are a few things doctors may recommend since natural delivery of breech babies can lead to birth injuries like bone fractures and brachial plexus injuries. One option might be to schedule a C-section, but doctors may also recommend attempting External Cephalic Version.

External Cephalic Version is when a doctor tries to physically move the baby out of the breech position and into a head-down position before delivery. This is done by applying pressure to the mother’s abdomen externally to help shift the baby into the right position. Since C-sections are a type of surgery that comes with its own risks and potential complications, ECV can seem like a desirable alternative by allowing mothers to deliver naturally instead while avoiding the risks that can come with natural births of breech babies. But it’s important to understand that while ECV is non-invasive, there are still some risks involved and it may not be an ideal option for all expectant mothers.

The Risks of ECV

In addition to being near term, ideal candidates for ECV have had prior pregnancies, the fetus isn’t engaged yet, and is surrounded by an adequate amount of amniotic fluid. The University of Michigan does not recommend ECV in the following situations:

  • Water has broken

  • More than one baby is being carried

  • The child is known or suspected to have a birth defect

  • Fetal monitoring is showing signs of distress or health problems in the child

  • Placenta previa or placental abruption has occurred

  • The child’s head is hyperextended

  • The mother has a health condition that prevents her from taking certain tocolytic medicines

  • Abnormalities in the uterus

During ECV, it’s very important for the baby to be carefully monitored to watch for signs of complications. For example, the ECV process might result in problems like umbilical cord prolapse which can disrupt the child’s oxygen supply. ECV can also come with an increased risk of premature labor, which in turn can have a higher risk of potential birth injuries. In rare cases, ECV has also resulted in placental abruption, damage to the umbilical cord, or a ruptured uterus.

ECV is estimated to be successful about 58% of the time and when it succeeds, most expectant mothers go on to have normal deliveries. But if you attempt ECV and it doesn’t work, your doctor will need to discuss the risks of having a C-section and the risks of naturally delivering a breech baby to help you make an informed decision about what is best for you.

Help From a Birth Trauma Lawyer

It’s always crucial for doctors to make sure patients are aware of the risks involved with any medical procedure they undergo. It’s also essential for them to take all reasonable steps to prevent possible complications. If your child was injured after a doctor performed ECV when it wasn’t appropriate or because they failed to warn you of the risks, you may have legal options. A birth trauma lawyer will be able to help you understand how the law applies to the case. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in helping the victims of birth trauma and are ready to help you too. Contact us to get started.

Image: iStock / FatCamera

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