Most babies move into a head-down position in the uterus before labor. The baby is in a breech position when its buttocks or feet are in place to come out first. There are 3 types:
Almost all breech babies are delivered by cesarean section.
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It is not fully understood why a baby is breech.
The chances of a breech position are higher for:
There are no symptoms when a baby is breech. Some women feel kicking in the lower part of the belly. Others feel hiccups above the belly button. Babies move around often. It can be hard to tell which way your baby is lying.
The baby's position will be checked a few weeks before the due date. This is done with a physical exam. The healthcare provider can feel the position through the belly wall by moving their hands in different places. This helps find the baby's head, back, and buttocks. The baby's heartbeat can also help find its position.
An ultrasound can confirm a breech position.
Your baby may still be in a breech position during the last weeks of pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about option such as:
The doctor will try to move the baby's head into a downward position by gently pushing on the belly. ECV is done about 3 to 4 weeks before the baby is due. It works about half the time, but the baby can revert back to a breech position.
Rarely, early labor can happen after ECV.
Exercises done during the last 8 weeks of pregnancy may help a baby turn into the correct position. These exercises are usually done 2 to 3 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes.
Moxibustion is a form of acupuncture. It involves burning an herb close to the skin at certain acupuncture points on the body. This may help the baby to turn into the right position. Talk to your healthcare provider about this method. It may not work for every woman.
A baby cannot always be turned before birth. The most common delivery method is by cesarean section.
There is no way to keep a baby from moving into a breech position at the end of a pregnancy.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. Practice Bulletin No. 161: external cephalic version. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;127(2):e54-e61. Reaffirmed 2018.
Breech babies: What can I do if my baby is breech? Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/breech-babies-what-can-i-do-if-my-baby-is-breech. Updated March 13, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Breech births. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/breech-presentation. Updated August 2015. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Breech delivery. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated December 22, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Breech presentation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115087/Breech-presentation. Updated April 13, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2019.
If your baby is breech. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq079.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121218T1009018242. Updated January 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Last reviewed March 2019 by Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC Last Updated: 4/24/2019