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Prevalence, Outcome, and Women’s Experiences of External Cephalic Version in a Low-Risk Population

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Abstract:  Background: 

Until recently, external cephalic version to prevent breech presentation at birth was not widely accepted. The objective of our study was to assess the prevalence, outcomes, and women’s experiences of external cephalic version to improve the implementation of the procedure in the Netherlands. Methods: 

A prospective cohort study was conducted of 167 women under the care of a midwife with confirmed breech presentation at a gestational age of 33 completed weeks or more. Results: 

Between June 2007 and January 2008, 167 women with a confirmed breech presentation were offered an external cephalic version. Of this group, 123 women (73.7%, 95% CI: 65.5–80.5) subsequently received the version. These women had about a ninefold increased probability of a cephalic presentation at birth compared with women who did not undergo a version (relative risk [RR]: 8.8, 95% CI: 2.2–34.8). The chance of a vaginal birth after an external cephalic version was almost threefold (RR: 2.7, 95% CI: 1.5–5.0). The success rate was 39 percent, although considerable differences existed associated with region and parity. Ninety-four percent of women with a successful version rated it as a good experience compared with 71 percent of women who had a failed version (p = 0.015). Significant pain during the version was experienced by 34 percent of women, of whom 18 percent also experienced fear during the version, compared with no women who reported little or no pain (p = 0.006). Women who reported significant pain or fear during the version experienced the version more negatively (OR: 6.0, 95% CI: 3.3–12.2 and OR: 2.7, 95% CI: 1.1–6.0, respectively). Conclusions: 

One in every four women with a breech presentation in independent midwifery care did not receive an external cephalic version. Of the women who received a version one third experienced significant pain during the procedure. Considerable regional variation in success rate existed. (BIRTH 37:2 June 2010)

Keywords: Dutch; external cephalic version; pain; prevalence; women's experiences

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010


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