If you're pregnant, you might have some concerns about your baby's positioning. Will they be head down and ready before labour begins?
Maybe you've been told your baby is in the breech position and though labor isn't imminent you're concerned about what this means.
Breech positioning is when the baby's buttocks or feet are down and positioned to be birthed first.
While many babies might be breech at some point in pregnancy, only 1-3% of full-term babies are in the breech position.
From wondering when you should worry about baby turning on their own to how a breech baby should be born, there is a lot of conflicting information out there.
Here are 8 facts about breech birth:
#1: There Are Three Types Of Breech Birth
Breech means that baby isn't head down and either her feet or buttocks is positioned to be born first. Breech positioning is further defined by how their buttocks, feet and legs are positioned. Knowing the type of breech position baby is in can help maternity care providers recommend how to give birth and the type of care and assistance they should provide. The three types of breech birth are:
- A footling breech, or incomplete breech, has one or both feet positioned to be born first
- Frank breech is when the buttocks is presented first and the legs are sticking straight up towards baby's head
- A complete breech is when the buttocks is presented first and the knees are bent so the feet are down near the buttocks
#2: The Webster Technique Is An Effective Way To Encourage Baby To Turn
Regular chiropractic care can be linked to positive pregnancy and birth outcomes. When a baby is presenting breech, a chiropractor certified to do the Webster Technique might be able to help facilitate baby turning. A small study found the Webster Technique to be 82% effective.
Chiropractic care and the Webster Technique do not actually move the baby. Chiropractic care and the Webster Technique help to align a mother so there is nothing hindering baby's ability to get into the head down position for birth.
In addition to chiropractic care, some women find acupuncture, acupressure and even certain exercises helpful in facilitating baby turning head down.
#3: Most Breech Babies Will Turn
At 28 weeks of pregnancy, around 25% of babies are in the breech position.
However, by 35 weeks, only 7% of babies are breech, and by 37 weeks, only 1-3% are breech.
If you're less than 37 weeks and have been told your baby is breech, it might be helpful to know but it isn't something to be too concerned about.
The majority of breech babies will turn on their own, before reaching full-term gestation.
#4: A Breech Baby Can Turn In Labour
It is possible for a breech baby to naturally turn after labour has begun.
The bigger baby gets, the less space baby has to move. However, this doesn't stop all breech babies from naturally turning head down during labour.
#5: An External Cephalic Version Might Get Baby Head Down
An external cephalic version (ECV) is a procedure performed by a doctor to manually turn baby from the outside. This procedure is performed after you reach full-term, as there's a risk of baby needing to be born during or immediately following the procedure.
ECV's are successful around 65% of the time. As with any procedure, there are some risks involved, but for many mothers, the benefit of a possible low-risk vaginal birth outweighs potential risks.
#6: Research Supports Vaginal Breech Birth
For many pregnant mothers expecting a breech baby, a c-section is the only birth option presented. New research, however, supports mothers being given the option of a vaginal birth.
While it might not be the right option for every breech birth, it is important that mothers have access to all the information so they can make an informed decision about their birth.
Different breech presentations carry different risks when it comes to birth. A footling breech carries the risk of cord prolapse or baby descending into the birth canal prior to full dilation. A frank or complete breech presentation is the most favorable breech position for a vaginal birth. The feet are out of the way, up near the head, and baby's buttocks will still create pressure, just like a head would, to facilitate cervical dilation.
#7: There Are Options For C-Section Birth
In some situations, a c-section birth might be the safest or desired option. If a c-section is necessary, mothers should be able to discuss birth options with their providers.
As we are learn more about the importance of delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin and more family-centered c-sections, women are starting to get more involvement in their c-section births.
#8: One Breech Birth Doesn't Guarantee Another
If you have a breech birth, you might be concerned about subsequent pregnancies and births. Fortunately, having one breech baby doesn't mean you'll necessarily have another. In fact, less than 10% of women who have one breech baby will have a second baby in the breech position.
If your pregnancy has deviated from what you expected, it can create concerns and anxieties. While it can be difficult, thankfully we have many options available to help baby arrive safely. Remember that babies often turn into the head down position on their own, even as late as labour. Regardless of how you give birth, you have many options, and you can weigh the benefit and risk of each to find the choice that is best for you and your baby.