Breech Birth

What is a breech birth?

A breech birth is the delivery of an unborn baby bottom end first.

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By your 36th week your baby is so large that it can't move around, so whatever position it has assumed by this point is likely to be the same position that he or she will be in when labour begins. Most babies settle into the birth position. (Upside down in the uterus). But some babies settle in the breech position. (Bottom in the uterus, legs are folded in front of it's body.)

The biggest part of the fetus's body is usually its head. If the head fits through the mother's pelvis, then the rest of the baby's body should slip out fairly easily. If the baby is born bottom first, it is possible that the body will fit through the mother's pelvis, but the baby's head will get stuck at the level of the chin. This condition, known as a trapped head, is very dangerous.

If the baby's head gets trapped, the possibility of injury is high. Once the baby's body is born, the umbilical cord usually stops pulsating (just as it would during a normal delivery). This cuts off the oxygen supply from the mother to the baby. If the baby's head is still inside the uterus the baby cannot yet breathe on its own. Therefore, it is essential to deliver the baby as quickly as possible.

The risks of vaginal breech delivery can be avoided by delivering the baby through a cesarean section.

How will I know if my baby is in the breech position?

There are generally no identifiable symptoms. However, some women can tell the position of the baby by where they feel it kicking. Most women cannot tell what position the baby is in at any given moment.


Your doctor or midwife will be able to tell the position of your baby by feeling it through the wall of your abdomen. Another clue to the position is the location where the heartbeat is heard best.

The only way to really be sure, however, is to do an ultrasound exam. Using this technique it is very easy to tell the position of your baby.


Cesarean section is the most common way to deliver a breech baby. This surgical procedure carries more risk for the mother, but many women prefer to take the risk of surgery on themselves rather than let the baby face the risks of breech delivery.

Normal vaginal birth. This should only be attempted if ultrasound shows that the baby is in a favorable breech position. Most babies will do very well during a breech delivery, but it is always possible that the baby will be injured.

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