What Does it Mean if Your Baby is Breech?

Throughout much of your pregnancy, you will feel your baby move around in your uterus as he or she assumes a variety of positions. However, after approximately 36 weeks, the majority of babies will turn in a head-down position to prepare for delivery. Once a baby turns into this position, he or she will likely stay there until delivery.

However, in approximately four percent of pregnancies, the babies will not turn and are considered to be in a “breech” presentation. A breech presentation means that the baby’s feet, buttocks or both will be in position to come out first. There are three different types of breech positions – a frank breech, a complete breech and a footling breech. In a frank breech, the baby’s buttocks are aimed at the birth canal and his/her feet are straight up, near the baby’s head. In a complete breech, the baby’s buttocks are aimed at the birth canal and his/her legs are folded at the knees. In a footling breech, one or both of the baby’s feet are pointing towards the birth canal.

While the majority of the time, it is unclear what causes a baby to be in the breech presentation, these factors may increase the likelihood:

  • The mother is having multiples
  • The mother has had more than one pregnancy
  • The baby is preterm
  • The uterus has too much or too little amniotic fluid, or it has an abnormal shape or abnormal growths
  • The mother has placenta previa, where the placenta covers all or part of the opening of the uterus

As you get closer to your due date, your health care provider will be able to determine whether your baby is in the breech presentation through a physical exam. If he or she suspects that your baby is breech, an ultrasound will likely be performed for confirmation.

If you are a candidate, your physician may recommend a procedure called an external cephalic version (ECV). Your physician will try to lift and turn the baby from the outside with the goal of moving the baby to the head-down position. If the version is not successful or if you are not a candidate for the procedure, some physicians may recommend other at-home or natural techniques to try to get the baby to turn itself.  If your baby does not turn from the breech presentation, your physician will most likely recommend you have a C-section to reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby.

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