Breech Birth

About three percent of babies remain in a breech position, with feet facing downward, at the time of birth. In many cases a Caesarean delivery is recommended.

Breech presentation is when the baby’s bottom is pointing downwards towards the birth canal. Most babies settle into the cephalic presentation between 32 and 34 weeks, with the head pointing downwards ready for delivery. You can try coercing your breech baby to turn by spending a little time each day on all fours. This provides more room for your baby to move.

About three per cent of babies remain in the breech position. If a woman begins labour with her baby positioned breech, medical staff will almost always advise a Caesarean delivery, particularly if it is your first baby.

Breech deliveries are more complicated and require experienced doctors and midwives. Because many breech babies are delivered by Caesarean, less and less maternity staff have the experience of a vaginal breech delivery. If you choose to deliver vaginally, you will be offered an epidural.


Cephalic presentation and breech presentation

With a breech delivery, your baby’s buttocks will be delivered first followed by the legs. Next your baby’s body will emerge and finally the head will be drawn into the vagina. Forceps may be used to complete the delivery.

A potential concern with a vaginal breech delivery is that your baby’s head may become stuck during the second stage of labour, depriving your baby of oxygen and increasing the risk of foetal distress. Labour may be slower because your baby’s head cannot push on the cervix. There is also a higher risk of tearing.

Some babies are breech due to structural reasons such as a septum or wall in the uterus that can interfere with the baby’s positioning. But in the majority of cases there is no known medical reason.

It is thought that in some cases the baby may be positioned breech due to tension that the mother holds in the lower area of her body. It has been found that anxious and fearful women have a higher incidence of breech presentation than do others, attributed to the fact that fear, anxiety and stress can activate sympathetic mechanisms that result in tightening of the lower uterine segment.

Perhaps the key to allowing the baby to turn spontaneously is to encourage the mother to release tension in this area. Methods including cupuncture, acupressure, breathing, massage and hypnosis are known to help a breech baby to turn into the desired position.

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