Word of the Day Wednesday: Breech

Breech refers to a position in the womb in which the baby’s bottom or feet are presenting first (meaning at the bottom of the uterus) rather than the head, which is how babies ideally present sometime before the end of pregnancy.

How do I know my baby is breech?

Ultrasound: some providers do an ultrasound for position routinely at 36 weeks; others will only do one if they suspect a breech baby or a different problem

Leopold’s maneuvers: your provider assesses where the baby’s head, buttocks, and legs are by palpating your abdomen

Pelvic exam: your provider assesses the position by checking which part of the baby is against the cervix (most likely would only be done during labor)

Fetal movement: some mothers may suspect their baby is breech if they feel more big kicks on their pelvic floor or bladder

Breech Positions

There are three different breech positions: frank, complete, and footling.

Frank breech babies are folded in half, with one or both feet up by the head and their bottom coming into the pelvis first.

Complete breech babies are sitting cross-legged with their bottoms presenting.

Footling breech babies have one or both feet presenting first. Footling breech position is rare among term babies but can be more common in preterm or very small babies.

How many babies are breech?

At 24 weeks, about 50% of babies are breech. By 37 weeks, only about 3-4% of babies are breech. Generally, it’s not necessary to be concerned about flipping a breech baby until you’re around 34-36 weeks pregnant.

Why is my baby breech?

You might be more likely to have a breech baby if...

  • You’ve had a baby before
  • You have too much or too little amniotic fluid
  • You’re pregnant with twins or other multiples
  • You have uterine fibroids
  • Your placenta is covering your cervix (placenta previa)
  • Your baby is preterm

How to turn a breech baby

What if my breech baby won't turn?

Most babies in the United States, including in Chicago, are born by cesarean section if they are breech. However, you may be able to have a vaginal delivery, especially if your provider has been trained in breech vaginal delivery or you’re delivering multiples and the baby that is presenting first is head down. Your provider can discuss the risks and benefits of breech birth versus cesarean birth with you. Talk to us about referrals for providers who do breech vaginal delivery if you are considering that option.