Breech Baby

What does it mean if my baby is breech?

If your baby is breech, it means he is lying in a bottom down position. Up to four percent of babies are thought to be breech at the end of the pregnancy. By the end of most pregnancies, the baby is in a head down position, this means the largest part of the baby (the head) is born first. A breech birth is more complicated.

Turning the baby

If your baby is breech at 32 weeks, there is a good chance he will move himself into a head down position before the birth. By week 36, however, your baby will have less room to move around, and your healthcare provider may want to intervene.

An obstetrician may try to turn your baby using a technique called external cephalic version (ECV). This involves manually applying pressure to your bump in an attempt to turn the baby. ECV will take place in hospital, and your baby will be monitored throughout. Your doctor’s movements will be guided with the help of ultrasound. You may be offered drugs to relax your uterus during the procedure. ECV shouldn’t hurt but may be uncomfortable as pressure is applied. This technique is successful in around half of all cases, and this is partly down to the skill of the obstetrician performing the procedure.

Breech birth

If your baby doesn’t turn during ECV, your healthcare provider will want to discuss birth options with you. In the US, 85 percent of breech babies are delivered by cesarean. Cesarean birth is considered the safest way to deliver a breech baby, although some are still born by vaginal delivery. If you go into labour before your scheduled cesarean surgery, your healthcare provider will assess whether you should try for a vaginal birth instead.

You will be advised against a vaginal birth if:

  • your baby’s foot is below his bottom
  • your baby is in a kneeling down position
  • your baby has his head tilted back
  • you have pre-eclampsia
  • your baby is expected to weigh less than 2kg
  • your baby is expected to weigh more than 3.8kg
  • you have a narrow pelvis
  • you have had a previous cesarean
  • you have a low-lying placenta

If you are expecting twins, and the first twin is breech you will also be advised to avoid a vaginal birth. If none of the above apply to you, and you would like to pursue a vaginal breech delivery, you should speak to your healthcare provider.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.