Usually, your baby automatically turns inside your womb into a head-down position to get ready for birth. This is called a vertex presentation and is the safest position for birth. But what happens when your baby is not in the right position? Is vaginal birth possible and is it safe?
When your baby’s feet are pointed toward your birth canal, it’s called a breech presentation. In the United States alone, about three to four percent of all term pregnancies result in a breech presentation.
Generally, breech babies can be delivered vaginally, except with twins when one baby is positioned butt down and the second twin is positioned head down. With both babies’ heads together, there is concern that the two heads could lock together.
What Causes a Breech Baby?
There is no sure answer to why breech presentations occur. However, the American Pregnancy Association states that there are many factors that could possibly affect why your baby may be in a breech presentation:
- If you have had several pregnancies,
- If you are carrying multiples,
- If your uterus has too much or too little amniotic fluid that either gives your baby too much room or too little room to move around,
- If you experienced a premature birth, or
- If you experience pregnancy complications, especially in the uterus (fibroids, placenta previa).
What Can I Do If I Have a Breech Baby?
Your doctor can diagnose your pregnancy as breech at around 35 to 36 weeks. This is the time babies move into position for birth.
Some healthcare professionals may suggest an external cephalic version (ECV) to help turn your baby. This procedure involves your doctor and another member of your medical team manually turning your baby in your uterus with their hands through your stomach. An ECV is performed inside the hospital where your baby can be monitored throughout the entire procedure. The ECV is often done between 36-38 weeks of pregnancy. However, take note that this procedure doesn’t guarantee that your baby will move into a vertex presentation or that your baby will stay there.
Delivering a Breech Baby
In the case of breech birth, a C-section is usually recommended—but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a vaginal delivery with most breech positions. I have delivered many breech babies vaginally, including a set of twins who were both breech at birth.
Please see my podcast on breech birth for more information on breech deliveries.