Breech Position and Breech Birth - Topic Overview
What is breech position?
During most of pregnancy,
there is enough room in the
uterus for the baby (fetus) to
change position. By 36 weeks of pregnancy, most babies turn into a head-down
position. This is the normal and safest fetal position for birth.
But in about 4 out of 100 births, the baby does not naturally turn
head-down late in the pregnancy. Instead, the baby is in a breech
position.1 Babies in breech position usually must be
There are three main breech
- 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.
See a picture of
breech positions .
What causes breech position during pregnancy?
There is often no clear reason why the baby did not turn head-down. In other cases, breech position might
be linked to:2
- Labor that begins before the 37th week of
pregnancy, before the baby is likely to turn head-down on its
- Twins or more. Limited space for two or more babies can
prevent them from moving into the head-down position before
- Too much or too little
amniotic fluid in the uterus.
with the uterus, such as an oddly shaped uterus or
uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths in
the uterine wall.
- Stretched and weakened uterine muscle from past
- Problems with the baby, including heart, digestive
tract, and brain problems, such as
What are the signs that your baby is in breech position?
You probably will not be able to feel whether your baby is breech. But if
you are 36 or more weeks pregnant and think you feel the baby’s head pressing
high up in your belly and/or you feel kicking in your lower belly, see your
doctor for an exam.
How is a breech position diagnosed?
routine exam late in your pregnancy, your doctor will feel your upper and lower
belly and may do a
fetal ultrasound to find out if your baby is breech.
Your doctor may also learn that your baby is breech when he or she checks your
How is breech position treated?
Sometimes it is
possible for a doctor to turn a baby from a breech position to a head-down
position by using a procedure called an
external cephalic version. If the baby can be turned
head-down before labor starts, you may be able to have a vaginal birth.