What is breech birth?
During most of pregnancy, there is enough space in the uterus for the baby (fetus) to change position. To have the normal and safest fetal position for birth, babies have to turn into a head-down position by 36 weeks of pregnancy.
A breech birth happens when a baby is born bottom first instead of head first. A small percentage around 3-5% of pregnant women at term (37–40 weeks pregnant) will have a breech baby. Most babies in the breech position should be born by a caesarean section because it is seen as safer than being born vaginally.
There are three main breech positions :
- Frank breech. The buttocks are in place to come out first during delivery. The legs are straight up in front of the body, with the feet near the head. This is the most common type of breech position.
- Complete breech. The buttocks are down near the birth canal. The knees are bent, and the feet are near the buttocks.
- Footling breech. One leg or both legs are stretched out below the buttocks. The leg or legs are in place to come out first during delivery.
How common is breech birth?
In about 4 out of 100 births, the baby doesn’t naturally turn head-down. Instead, the baby is in a breech position. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of breech birth?
A baby is not thought breech until around 35 or 36 weeks. Normally, in preparation for birth, a baby usually turns head-down to get into right position. It’s normal for babies to be head-down or even sideways before 35 weeks.
After that, though, as the baby gets bigger and runs out of room, it becomes harder for the baby to turn and get into the correct position.
By the experience of your doctor, he/she will be able to tell if your baby is breech by feeling your baby’s position through your stomach. By using an ultrasound in the office and in the hospital, your doctor may confirm that your baby is breech before you deliver.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes breech birth?
Doctors can’t say exactly why breech pregnancies occur, but according to the American Pregnancy Association, there are many different reasons why a baby might position itself the “wrong” way in the womb, including:
- If a woman has had several pregnancies
- In pregnancies with multiples
- If a woman has had a premature birth in the past
- If the uterus has too much or too little amniotic fluid, meaning the baby has extra room to move around in or not enough fluid to move around in
- If the woman has an abnormally shaped uterus or has other complications, such as fibroids in the uterus
- If a woman has placenta previa
What increases my risk for breech birth?
There are many risk factors for breech birth, such as:
- Preterm delivery
- Increased parity
- Multiple gestations
- Previous breech delivery
- Pelvic tumors
- Older maternal age
- Hydramnios. Too much amniotic fluid, may allow the fetus too much movement.
- Oligohydramnios. This condition is too little amniotic fluid, may impede the final shift of the fetus into a cephalic presentation.
- Placenta previa. Placental implantation over the cervical, allows the fetus too much space for movement within the uterus.
- Enlarged head in the fetus, makes it more difficult for the fetus to make shift to cephalic presentation prior to the onset of labor.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is breech birth diagnosed?
During a routine exam in your pregnancy recently, your doctor will feel your upper and lower belly and a fetal ultrasound will be required to find out if your baby is breech. By checking your cervix, your doctor also confirms whether your baby is breech.
How is breech birth treated?
- Success rates for turning a breech pregnancy depend on the reason your baby is breech, but as long as you try a safe method, there’s no harm.
- External version (EV). An EV is a procedure in which your doctor will try to manually turn your baby into the correct position by manipulating the baby with their hands through your stomach.
- Essential oil. Some successes by using an essential oil, like peppermint, on their stomachs to stimulate the baby to turn on its own.
- Inverting their bodies to encourage the baby to flip is also a popular method.
- Women use different methods, like standing on their hands in a swimming pool, propping up their hips with pillows, or even using the stairs to help elevate their pelvis.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage breech birth?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with breech birth:
- It’s very important to see your doctor regularly throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor can tell if your baby is breech and help plan what to do.
- Some doctors will plan to deliver the baby by C-section. Others may give their patients exercises to do at home that may help turn the baby to the headfirst position.
- If this procedure is successful and the baby stays in a head down position, a normal vaginal delivery is more likely.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Breech position http://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/breech-position-and-breech-birth-topic-overview#2. Accessed March 3, 2017
Breech delivery http://reference.medscape.com/article/797690-workup. Accessed March 3, 2017
What You Need to Know if Your Baby Is Breech http://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/breech-baby?s_con_rec=true#Turning5. Accessed March 3, 2017
Breech Babies: What Can I Do if My Baby is Breech? https://familydoctor.org/breech-babies-what-can-i-do-if-my-baby-is-breech/. Accessed March 3, 2017
Review Date: August 8, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019