New film helps women facing breech birth make right decision

Up to 4% of women in the UK experience breech birth at the end of pregnancy, where the baby is lying feet or bottom first, as opposed to the normal position which enables the baby to be born headfirst through the birth canal.

The film ‘Breech’ is the brainchild of Dr Rebecca Say, who is doing a National Institute for Health Research Doctoral Fellowship at Newcastle University, was premiered at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle.

The aim of the animation – the first of its kind in the country – is to support women who are facing several choices, such as whether to allow an attempt at turning the baby in the womb, whether to elect for a Caesarean section or breech delivery.

Dr Say said: “Breech birth is a common problem that we see in ante-natal clinics every week and, therefore, there is a real need for a film such as this.

“The whole ethos of shared decision making in the NHS is that, in a situation when there are a number of treatment options available, we want patients to make decisions that are right for them and match their views and values.

“Our research showed that women were very interested in experiential accounts of breech births and spent a lot of time viewing online forums, but they were aware that people post horror stories on forums and they didn’t know how much to trust the information.

“What we’ve done is provide fictional accounts of two women who have a breech baby. The stories in the film are inspired by the women in our study and tell the emotional side of the journey and its impact – this is what makes the film so different.”

To ensure the film accurately represents the views of mums-to-be, Dr Say sought opinions of scores of women by carrying out interviews, workshops and observational work.

Northumbria and Teesside universities contributed towards the development of the film, which cost £20,000 to make. The film has received endorsement from NHS Choices as the organisation has agreed to upload it onto its website.

Ellie Land, Senior Lecturer in Animation at Northumbria University, wrote and directed the film, alongside Dr Say who co-wrote the script and co-designed two female characters, Polly and Rachel, which drew on her research.

Miss Land said: “You can often say a lot more in animation than you can in photographic work. It gets information across in a visual way, which isn’t always possible through the written word.

“Naturally, it’s hard for a woman to imagine what giving birth is like if they haven’t done it before. But by using women’s real stories, alongside factual information, we have been able to communicate to the audience on a more emotive level. While they are being swept along by the story they are also taking in information which could be very useful to them.”

Breech is common at the beginning of pregnancy, however as the baby grows and gets ready for labour it tends to turn itself around so that its head is in the correct position. Approximately three in every 100 babies are in the breech position at full-term.

The film will be part of a website designed to give educational and practical advice about breech presentation.

Dr Say added: “The website combines evidence-based information with practical information and women’s experiences, which is what respondents in the study said they would value.”

Leyla Battista, of Whickham, Gateshead, was part of the study as her child, Luca, was in the breech position and the mother-of-three made the decision to have her son turned around in the womb.

The 33-year-old said: “When I was told my son was in the breech position it did make me anxious as I didn’t want to have a Caesarean section and I was keen to find out what other birthing options were available.

“This animated film would have been extremely helpful as it gives the information in a clear and interesting way. There is nothing in the film that I would change and I feel it’s important that the film has been based on real experiences of women.

“When I was approached to be part of the study I had no hesitation in taking part as women need to be fully informed so they can make a decision that is right for them and one they feel comfortable with.”

Click here to view the film and find accompanying information about breech birth.

Fact box:

The breech birth website contains information about:

  • Breech presentation, for example how common it is and possible reasons why babies are breech.
  • The risks and benefits of birthing options.
  • Practical information about birthing options, including a flow chart of the decision making process, information about recovery and impact on breastfeeding.
  • Further information about the experiences of Polly and Rachel, the characters in the film.
  • A summary of the key research studies and guidelines regarding breech options.


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