Breech Position and Breech Birth
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.
You also can ask your doctor if you can try certain positions at home
that may help turn your baby. This is called postural management. There is no research to prove that this works,
but it’s not harmful. It may work for you.
It’s normal to feel
disappointed and worried about a breech pregnancy, especially if the doctor has
tried to turn the baby without success. But most breech babies are healthy and
don't have problems after birth. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about
your baby’s health.
How is a breech baby delivered safely?
In most cases, a planned cesarean delivery (C-section) is safest for the baby. If your fetus stays in or returns to breech position near your due date, your doctor will likely schedule a cesarean. If you are using a midwife, your midwife will refer you to a doctor for a scheduled C-section.
In rare cases, a cesarean breech birth may not be recommended or even possible. For instance, if a breech labor progresses too quickly, a vaginal birth may be the only option. During a twin birth in which the first twin is head-down and the second twin is breech, both babies may best be delivered vaginally.3
No matter what position a baby is in, every labor
and delivery is unique. Even though you and your doctor have a birth plan for
labor and delivery, plans can change. If something unexpected happens, your
doctor may need to make some quick decisions to keep you and your baby
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about breech position and breech birth:
- What is breech position?
- What types of fetal problems are linked to breech position?
- What can I do to help have a healthy pregnancy?
- Is there anything I can do to help my baby turn out of a breech position?
- How does a doctor turn the baby (external cephalic version)?
- What do I need to know about Cesarean delivery?
Other Places To Get Help
|American Academy of Family
|P.O. Box 11210|
|Shawnee Mission, KS 66207-1210|
|Web Address: ||www.familydoctor.org|
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers information on adult and child health conditions and healthy living. Its Web site has topics on medicines, doctor visits, physical and mental health issues, parenting, and more.
|American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
|409 12th Street SW|
|P.O. Box 96920|
|Washington, DC 20090-6920|
|Phone: ||(202) 638-5577|
|Web Address: ||www.acog.org|
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) is a nonprofit organization of professionals who provide health care for
women, including teens. The ACOG Resource Center publishes manuals and patient
education materials. The Web publications section of the site has patient
education pamphlets on many women's health topics, including reproductive
health, breast-feeding, violence, and quitting smoking.
|American Pregnancy Association|
|1425 Greenway Drive|
|Irving, TX 75038|
|Fax: ||(972) 550-0800|
|Web Address: ||www.americanpregnancy.org|
The American Pregnancy Association is a national health
organization committed to promoting reproductive and pregnancy wellness through
education, research, advocacy, and community awareness. You can call a
toll-free helpline or use the Web site to request patient education materials.
- Cesarean Section
- Labor and Delivery
- Multiple Pregnancy: Twins or More
- Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(2000, reaffirmed 2009). External cephalic version. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 13. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 95(2): 1–7.
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Breech presentation and delivery. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 527–543. New York: McGraw-Hill.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(2006, reaffirmed 2010). Mode of term singleton breech delivery. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 340. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 108: 235–237.
Other Works Consulted
Klatt TE, Cruikshank DP (2008). Breech, other malpresentations,
and umbilical cord complications. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 400–416. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
|By: ||Healthwise Staff ||Last Revised: January 13, 2012|
|Medical Review: ||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
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