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 doesn't naturally turn
head-down. Instead, the baby is in a breech
position.1 Babies in breech position usually must be
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.
What causes breech position?
Most of the time, there is no clear reason why the baby did not turn head-down.
In some cases, breech position may be linked to early labor, twins or more, problems with the uterus, or problems with the baby.2
What are the signs that your baby is in breech position?
You probably won't 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 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 a doctor can turn a baby from a breech position to a head-down
position by using a procedure called an
external cephalic version. (If you are using a midwife and your baby is in breech position, your midwife will refer you to a doctor for this procedure.) If the baby can be turned
head-down before labor starts, you may be able to have a vaginal birth.