My Baby Is Breech — What Does That Mean, And

pregnant-woman-with-doctor-2 (1)RicardoImagen/Getty Images

As you might have gathered from your baby’s acrobatic moving, there’s plenty of wiggle room (or should we say wiggle womb?) in the uterus for your little one to turn — and flip, and bounce on your bladder (hello, frequent urination!). It’s a veritable funhouse in there. But as baby gets bigger and space gets tighter, turning gets trickier. At some point, it ceases to even be an option. Fortunately, most babies turn into a head-down position by around 36 weeks pregnant so they’re in a safe position for their big exit. But… what does it mean if you have a breech baby?

First of all, don’t panic. Just because your baby is breech right this minute doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have a vaginal birth. Before you slip into a full-blown panic, let’s go over what this position means and what you may be able to do about it.

What does it mean if your baby is breech?

Per the American Pregnancy Association, a breech baby is one whose buttocks and/or feet are positioned to be delivered first. This occurs in approximately 1 out of 25 full-term births (or only around 3 to 4 percent of all pregnancies).

What are the breech baby positions?

There are three main types of breech positions:

Complete Breech

Here, baby’s cute little tush is pointing down toward the birth canal. Their legs are folded at the knees, putting their feet near their bottom. Sort of like criss-cross applesauce.

Frank Breech

If your obstetrician says your baby is in frank breech, it means their butt is pointing downward as it would with complete breech. The difference? Here, baby’s legs stick up straight in front of his or her body with their feet by their head.

Footling Breech

Does the name give it away? With this breech position, one or both of baby’s feet point downward. If they remained in this position, their feet would be delivered first.

In addition to these three main types of breech, baby might wind up in one of the following variations:

Incomplete Breech

Unlike complete where both of baby’s legs are tucked beneath their bottom, here only one hip or knee is flexed.

Transverse Lie

Also known as shoulder presentation, this form of breech sees your baby positioned horizontally in the uterus. It’s rare that a baby would be delivered this way, though.

What causes a baby to be in breech position?

It’s unknown why some babies get into proper positioning and others remain breech before birth. Some factors that are suspected to contribute may be:

  • You’ve been pregnant before.
  • You’re carrying multiples.
  • You have placenta previa, which covers all or part of the uterus opening.
  • The uterus is abnormally shaped and/or has fibroids or other growths.
  • The uterus has more or less amniotic fluid than usual.
  • Your baby is preterm.

How does a breech baby feel?

You may be able to tell your baby is breech simply by feeling your abdomen through belly mapping. You may also notice that baby seems to be landing direct kicks to your bladder. Other than that, though, you’ll probably need your health care provider to confirm whether your baby is pointing in the correct head-down position. If they believe your little one might not be, your practitioner may order an ultrasound to find out for sure.

How do you turn a breech baby?

If you still have time before delivery and your pregnancy isn’t high risk, there are several ways you may be able to turn your little one. A medical option could be an external cephalic version (ECV). ECV refers to the process by which the doctor applies pressure to your stomach to turn the baby from the outside. It’s typically done in the hospital and only after baby has been confirmed breech via ultrasound.

There are also myriad natural turning methods many women swear by:

  • Pelvic tilt
  • Inversion
  • Increased temperature
  • Acupuncture
  • Stimulating music

Does a breech presentation mean something is wrong?

Breathe in, breathe out. Feel better? Good, because breech isn’t typically something to freak out about as long as you’re in close touch with your health care provider throughout your pregnancy. Yes, your risk for certain problems may be slightly elevated. However, your doctor will advise you of the safest course of action for you and baby if breech does become an issue.

What labor options do you have?

For the most part, medical care providers don’t recommend a vaginal delivery with a breech baby. Rather, the most commonly suggested labor option here would be a cesarean delivery.