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Breech Baby

What is a breech presentation?
What factors increase the chance of breech presentation?
How can my health care provider tell if my baby is…
What is external cephalic version (ECV)?
How is ECV performed?
When is ECV done?
Can ECV be done for all breech presentations?
How successful is ECV?
How are most breech babies born?
What are the risks of having a vaginal breech birth?

What is a breech presentation?

About 3-4 weeks before the due date, most babies will reposition themselves to have their head near the birth canal. If this does not occur, the baby’s feet or buttocks will be next to the birth canal. This is called a breech presentation. Breech presentation occurs in about 3-4% of full-term birth, and a cesarean delivery may be recommended.

What factors increase the chance of breech presentation?

Factors that increase the likelihood of breach presentation:

  • Having a previous pregnancy
  • Having a multiple pregnancy (twins or more)
  • Having too much or too little amniotic fluid in the uterus
  • Abnormal uterus shape or growths (such as fibroids)
  • Placenta previa (placenta covering all or part of the cervix)
  • Fetus is preterm.

How can my health care provider tell if my baby is breech?

A physical exam can be preformed to determine if the baby is breech presentation. By placing their hands on your abdomen and feeling where the baby’s head, back, and buttocks are, your doctor can tell the position of the baby. An ultrasound can be preformed to confirm the position.

What is external cephalic version (ECV)?

If the fetus is breech, your doctor may recommend external cephalic version (ECV), which is a procedure in which the baby is manually lifted and turned from the outside to increase chances of a vaginal birth.

How is ECV performed?

A health care provider places their hands at certain positions on your abdomen, then lifts and turns the baby.

When is ECV done?

Usually, ECV is only tried when you are at least 36 weeks pregnant. If the baby is too young, it may reposition itself again.

Can ECV be done for all breech presentations?

Your health care professional will consider your health and state of your pregnancy to see if ECV is the right option for you. There are certain conditions that may increase risks associated ECV, in this case an ECV may not be recommended.

How successful is ECV?

More than half of ECV attempts are successful. Sometimes, after an ECV, the baby will move back into a breech presentation, but if this happens an ECV can be tried again. It becomes harder to move the baby closer to the due date, because the baby has grown larger.

How are most breech babies born?

Most of the time, if the fetus is determined to be breech, your doctor will plan a cesarean delivery.

There are risks involved with a cesarean delivery, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Problems resulting from pain relief medications.

However, it is not always possible to plan for a cesarean delivery because the baby may move into the breech position right before labor begins.

What are the risks of having a vaginal breech birth?

  • Vaginal breech birth increases the risk of harm to the baby.
  • It also increases the chance of a prolapsed umbilical cord (when the umbilical cord slips through the cervix ahead of the baby and can become pinched, stopping the blood flow to the baby).