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Breech Position and Breech Birth - Treatment Overview

By the 36th week of most pregnancies, the fetus naturally turns head-down (vertex). In this position, the fetus is ready for a head-first delivery through the birth canal. If your fetus is bottom-down (breech position) as your due date approaches, your doctor will most likely recommend a scheduled cesarean delivery (C-section). But if your fetus can be turned before labor starts, you can try for a vaginal labor and delivery.

See pictures of different breech positions .

Turning a breech fetus

A version procedure can turn a baby from a breech position to a head-down position. Also, you can ask your doctor if you can try certain positions at home that may help turn your baby. There is no research to prove that this works, but it?s not harmful. It may work for you.

  • External cephalic version (or version) is done in a medical setting with constant fetal heart rate monitoring. You will have an ultrasound before and after the version attempt. Your doctor may first give you a medicine to relax your uterine muscles. To turn the fetus, your doctor will press on specific areas of your abdomen. Version can be repeated several times if the first attempts to turn the fetus are not successful.
  • Postural management is something you do at home. You carefully position yourself with your hips raised above your head several times a day for several weeks.

If a version is successful, your fetus's position will be checked regularly until labor begins. If your fetus stays head-down, a planned cesarean is not needed, and you can expect to go through labor. You may deliver vaginally or by cesarean, depending on how the birthing process goes.

Delivering a breech baby

Most breech babies are delivered by planned cesarean section (C-section) to prevent harm to the baby. If your fetus stays in or returns to breech position near your due date, your doctor will likely schedule a cesarean. For more information, see the topic Cesarean Section.

Sometimes a cesarean breech birth is neither possible nor recommended. When a breech labor progresses too quickly, a vaginal birth may be the only delivery option. During a twin birth, a second twin who is breech may best be delivered vaginally.3

A fetus in a breech position can be delivered by:

  • A perinatologist.
  • A family medicine doctor with training in cesarean deliveries.
  • An obstetrician.

If you have a certified nurse-midwife or certified professional midwife for obstetric care, and your baby is breech, your midwife will refer you to a doctor for an external cephalic version or a scheduled C-section.

Your pediatrician or family medicine doctor may be present during the delivery in case your newborn needs care after birth.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 25, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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