Who doesn’t like an active baby? But this can cause problems. If your baby is breech there are many options to explore. Here’s what you need to know to have the safest possible delivery.
What does it mean for a baby to be “breech”?
As you may know, babies can twist and turn in the mother’s uterus. A baby can either be in the head first position (safest for the baby) or in the feet first position (referred to as “breech”). If a baby is born feet first, this is called a “breech birth”. An ultrasound can help doctors determine if your baby is breech. There are also options that can be explored to alter your baby’s position for the safest possible delivery.
Babies can be breech if:
- They are premature
- The mother is carrying more than one baby (multiples pregnancy)
- There is an abnormally high level of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby
- The mother has an abnormally shaped uterus
- The mother has a placenta previa condition (placenta partially or completely covers the cervix)
Is a breech birth more difficult?
A “Vaginal Breech Birth is more complicated because the largest part of the baby (the head) is delivered last.” This can lead to birth complications, causing breech babies to have a higher rate of injury after delivery.
An External Cephalic Version (ECV) is a common method doctors use to turn babies from the breech position into the correct fetal position for birth. “ECV usually is done in a hospital toward the end of pregnancy, around 37 weeks. Before the procedure, the doctor will do an ultrasound to confirm that your baby is breech. They also will monitor your baby’s heart rate to make sure it is normal.”
Under this method, prior to the doctor attempting to turn your baby, the doctor may administer medicine in hopes of relaxing the muscles in the uterus, making the action of the turning the baby easier. During this procedure, the doctor will place his or her hands on your stomach to locate the baby’s head. Then, the doctor will proceed to turn the baby into the head first position. After completion of the procedure, the doctor will again check your baby’s heart rate. Though this method can be successful, it is possible for your baby to revert back to his or her breech position.
The possibility of a successful ECV can depend on:
- The number of pregnancies you have previously had
- The amount of fluid around your baby
- The weight of your baby
- How close you are to your due date
- The position of the placenta
If the procedure is not successful, you and your doctor should then discuss delivery. You should be given the options of a planned vaginal delivery or a planned caesarean section (C-section). It is more likely that in the case of an unsuccessful ECV attempt, that your doctor will recommend having a C-section. A caesarean section is the surgical opening of the mother’s abdominal wall to deliver the baby. However, the doctor may suggest a repeat of the ECV once more before a final decision for a C-section is made. *An ECV will not be attempted if the mother is pregnant with more than one child.
What are the risks of an ECV?
- Early labor
- Minor blood loss in the case of the mother or the baby
- Fetal distress (can lead to an emergency C-section)
- Prematurely ruptured membranes
- Breech tilt, pelvic tilt: Lie on your back with your knees up and your feet placed firmly on the ground. Lift yourself into a bridge-like position. The amount of times that this position is maintained will differ from woman to woman. The number of times this position can be performed per day will also vary. Try to attempt this position while your baby is already moving.
- Music: Placing headphones or a speaker near your stomach at low volume can promote activity. Low soothing music is recommended.
- Temperature: The dissimilarities of hot and cold can also promote movement. Place something cold near the baby’s head and something warm where the baby’s feet are. The goal is for the baby to follow the warmth.
*There is no scientific evidence that the above natural methods will work, but it won’t hurt try.
1. “What Happens If My Baby is Breech?” Tommy’s, https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/labour-birth/labour-and-birth-faqs/what-happens-if-my-baby-breech. Accessed March 5, 2020.
2. “Breech Babies: What Can I Do If My Baby is Breech?” American Academy of Family Physicians, https://familydoctor.org/breech-babies-what-can-i-do-if-my-baby-is-breech/. Accessed. March 5, 2020.