Everything Pregnancy

Kim Kardashian West Had an ECV Procedure—What Is That?

Kim Kardashian West just had an external cephalic version procedure to turn her breech baby and allow her to deliver vaginally rather than by C-section.

Kim Kardashian pregnant in white outfit Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
You may have heard that Kim Kardashian West's baby was in the breech position as she approached her due date. But after undergoing a painful procedure to turn him, her son is now facing head down and ready to be delivered vaginally.

The reality star shared an update on her pregnancy on her website, writing, "This weekend, I checked into the hospital and underwent a procedure called an external cephalic version (ECV), which is done to manually turn the baby from a breech position to a head-down position."

She elaborated that she was given IV medication to relax her uterus, and then three doctors worked to reposition her son.

Kardashian West added, "They don't give you any pain medication, and let me tell you: This was soooooo painful. Probably more painful than childbirth. BUT it worked!!!"

She says she is relieved to no longer have to worry she will need a C-section.

So, what exactly is an ECV? Well, typically by the 37th week of pregnancy, a baby is in the head-down position. But if baby's butt or feet are pointing down instead of the head, it's called a breech presentation. Delivering a breech baby vaginally can be dangerous since there is more potential for complications.

Doctors often prefer to deliver a breech baby via C-section. One option to avoid this is for an ECV to be performed, where a doctor tries to manually move the baby into a head first position. The timing of the procedure is important, because closer to delivery the baby will be too low in the pelvis for an ECV to be successful.

What happens during an ECV is pretty close to what Kardashian West described. The mom-to-be is often given a uterus-relaxing drug, and the baby is monitored through ultrasound. Then the doctor guides the baby into the head-down position by basically encouraging her to perform a somersault.

It's not surprising that manipulating a baby's position in utero can be very painful for the mother. And it's very important to note an ECV can start labor or cause various complications such as entangling the umbilical cord, so an emergency C-section might have to be performed.

Thankfully, Kardashian-West's ECV was successful, but only about half are. And there's still a chance the baby can move back into a breech position before birth. Here's hoping the reality star's son stays put and she enjoys the kind of delivery she is hoping for!

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.