Breech Birth

Facts you may not know about breech babies

Your baby's somersaults may begin to slow down as you enter your third trimester, since it's getting a little too cramped to move freely. In the last weeks of pregnancy, most babies will naturally settle into a head-down position in the pelvis, the easiest way for their little body to move through the birth canal. However, it's not terribly uncommon for the baby to stubbornly stay put in his upright position until just days before labor; in fewer cases, the baby never moves into the preferred position.


A breech birth refers to a baby that is delivered in an upright position -- that is, feet or bottom first. Not surprisingly, this can bring about complications with delivery, and certain breech positions are more dangerous than others. Find out some facts about fetal position, including the problems associated with a breech presentation, how the situation can be simplified and what you can expect during delivery.

Why Turning Breech Babies is Preferred

Although a safe and natural birth is not out of the question if the baby is breech, the chances of a straightforward delivery are reduced considerably. Problems can arise if body parts are compressed or stuck, the umbilical cord wraps around the neck while it is still out of reach or the baby's lower half is simply too big for the pelvis. In most cases, women who go into labor with a baby in the breech position will need to have a cesarean section.

As you approach your due date, there is less and less room for your baby to turn on her own, but there's still a chance she could shift with a little help from you and your doctor. The most common technique for coaxing a breech baby into a more favorable position is called external cephalic version, or ECV: your doctor will apply deep pressure to various parts of your abdomen in an effort to turn your baby, usually with the help of ultrasound and fetal monitoring. Many women find the procedure uncomfortable, even slightly painful, but it is often your best chance for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery.

Delivering a Breech Baby

While breech births are not preferred, sometimes they're unavoidable. If your labor is progressing too quickly or your baby refuses to turn, your doctor will have to weigh the risks to decide whether an attempt at a vaginal breech delivery is worthwhile or if a c section is the best course of action. Typically, a planned cesarean section brings less risk to the mother and baby, but if your baby appears to be of average size and in a frank breech position (rather than a footling breech position, where one foot has dropped into the cervix) you may be able to go ahead with a vaginal delivery.

There are other criteria for a vaginal breech birth, too. First, the baby must be full term but not too big to fit through the pelvis, and if there are any signs of distress at any time during labor, a c section will be prescribed. You may be a little disappointed to learn that you won't have a vaginal birth, but remember that the best form of delivery is the one that's safest for you and your baby.