If you’re reading this post, you’ve either been told by your provider that your baby is breech or you suspect that he is. Either way, you’re looking for answers. The goal of this post is to share the essential information you need to know about your breech baby, including the breech positions, what causes a breech baby, complications associated with a breech baby, and a quick Q & A to answer some of the questions you probably have.
I’m sorry that your pregnancy has taken an unexpected turn.
When you discover that your baby is breech, it feels like an invisible clock begins to tick. It can be so easy to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to get your baby to turn before you need to take more drastic measures. As a mom of a breech baby, I know how you feel. My goal is to answer the critical questions on your mind so you can make the difficult decisions ahead of you.
About the Breech Baby Series
I’m Erin and my passion is helping moms-to-be and new moms overcome their baby blunders. This topic, breech babies, is very close to my heart.
I found out that my baby was when I was 36 weeks pregnant.
This discovery started a frantic race to turn my breech baby before 39 weeks or face a planned c-section. During this time, I was confused, disappointed, and a little scared. The research and articles on breech pregnancies is vast, but overwhelming. But at the end of the day, I found the techniques that worked and turned my breech baby at 39 weeks.
That’s why I created this Breech Baby Series.
By the end of this series, I want you to have the best chance of turning your breech baby while being fully prepared (and confident!) to deal with the situations that will arise if that doesn’t happen.
Here are the other posts in the Breech Baby Series:
- What to Do When Your Baby is Breech: Your Breech Pregnancy Step-by-Step Guide
- Turning a Breech Baby: 10 Ways to Turn a Breech Baby Naturally
- How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech: 10 Shocking Signs of a Breech Baby
- Breech Births: What You Need to Know to Have a Breech Delivery
- Delivering a Breech Baby: The Facts About External Cephalic Versions
- Delivering a Breech Baby: The Pros and Cons of an External Cephalic Version vs. a C-section
- 25+ Resources You Need to See if Your Baby is Breech (Coming Soon!)
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. I only recommend what I trust.
Medical Disclaimer: While I can give you advice based on my experience, none of this post should be substituted for actual medical advice. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
Your Breech Baby: The Facts You Need to Know if Your Baby is Breech
What is a Breech Baby or a Breech Presentation?
You probably already realize that a breech presentation means that your baby’s head is by your heart, instead of your pelvis. Head-down (also known as cephalic or vertex presentation) is the optimal position for a natural birth. 96-97% of babies naturally move into this position by full-term, thanks to good ol’ gravity. Unfortunately, the other 3-4% are breech.
Why is a breech baby such a big deal?
Your baby’s head is the largest part of his body. It’s designed to stretch the birthing canal to allow for the rest of his body to pass through. In a perfect world, your baby will tuck his chin into his chest and just slide out without any complications.
If your baby is breech, either his butt or his feet paves the way for birth. Your birth canal may not stretch appropriately, causing your baby to get stuck. This can cause complications, injuries, and even death.
Breech Baby Positions
There are four main breech baby positions that you should at least be familiar with:
- Frank Breech- A frank breech is one of the more common positions. Basically, your baby is folded in half, with her little booty near your pelvis, and feet and head by your ribs. If you’re looking for symptoms that your baby turned head-down, this can really throw you off.
- Footling- In this breech position, one or both of your baby’s feet is by your cervix. If you have a particularly feisty baby, it’s relatively easy to feel if he’s in this position. You’ll be enjoying your morning coffee when your little rebels kick you in the crotch…from the inside. A footling breech position almost guarantees that you will not be able to give birth naturally, due to the complications surrounding it.
- Complete- Your baby’s legs are folded and her feet are tucked in front of her butt, which is by your pelvis. A complete breech position isn’t optimal for a breech delivery, but some providers will still work with it.
- Transverse– In this rare position, your baby is actually sideways. Full-term babies are almost never transverse, however, you might run into it while you’re trying to turn a breech baby when she begins to flip.
If you’re considering a breech delivery, the position of your baby is pretty important. While specialized providers will consider delivering a frank or complete breech baby, a footling breech is often considered too dangerous.
What Causes a Breech Baby?
They say that 96-97% of all full-term babies are head-down…so why the heck is yours breech?
Mama, I wish I could give you a clear, definite answer, but the fact is that the medical community just doesn’t know. Research indicates that breech presentations are on the rise, quite possibly because of our culture. Women today work desks jobs, which can wreck a baby’s position. Driving can also be a cause since almost everyone gets into at least one fender bender in their lifetime. The impact from an accident can rotate or torque your hip, which creates an uncomfortable environment for a large unborn baby.
Here few more causes that you might consider:
- Frequent sitting
- Genetic abnormality with child (causal relationship only).
- Physical abnormalities with the mother, most commonly fibroids or a torqued hip. If you’ve ever been in a car accident, this could be you. This is why I highly encourage you to see a chiropractor if you’re turning a breech baby.
- Too much or too little amniotic fluid- Too little will prevent your baby from turning to head-down, too much will make your baby a crazy acrobat.
- Your age- The older you are, the more likely you are to have a breech baby.
- Limitations from the umbilical cord- Some babies instinctively know that head-down is dangerous. If the umbilical cord is too short or precariously wrapped around your baby’s neck, a breech presentation can actually be your friend.
- Stress- Even if stress doesn’t cause your baby to become breech, it can prevent your baby from turning. When you’re turning a breech baby, you have to relax and allow your muscles to ease the baby into the correct position. You can’t do that when you’re tense. I’ll go over some exercises and relaxation techniques that I used to turn my breech baby in this post, but for now, understand that stress is your greatest enemy throughout this ordeal.
A Breech Delivery: Can I Still Give Birth Naturally if My Baby is Breech?
That depends largely on your baby’s position and the medical providers in your area. If your baby is Frank or Complete breech, some providers may be willing to accommodate your baby’s position. This is especially the case if you live in Australia, Canada, or the UK.
However, if you live in the U.S., your options are much more limited. Most providers in the U.S. are not trained to assist with a breech birth and will not permit one due to safety concerns. Your options are limited to an ECV, planned c-section, or turning your baby naturally.
Related: Breech Births: What You Need to Know to Have a Breech Delivery
Breech Baby Complications
You know that a breech baby isn’t conducive to an easy-going natural labor, but what other breech baby complications do you have to worry about? Do breech babies have problems or birth defects? Are there any breech baby complications after birth or problems later in life?
Those are some pretty deep questions that can drive you insane if you let them.
Most breech babies, even those delivered naturally, never suffer any kind of complications. However, there are few things you should consider.
Complications From a Breech Delivery
Breech deliveries can increase the likelihood of complications (before and after birth). This is due to the inherent conditions of a breech pregnancy. Your baby’s rump may not be large enough to stretch the birth canal properly, causing head entrapment or even spinal injury. There are other complications to consider, such as cord prolapse and injuries to your baby’s internal organs (it’s easier for an untrained provider to mishandle a breech baby).
Complications After a Breech Delivery
In addition to lasting injuries from the labor, a small percentage of breech babies may have genetic abnormalities. Right now, this is only a causal link. These abnormalities may have been the cause of the breech pregnancy all along. Some abnormalities might include, torticollis, down syndrome, or autism.
This isn’t meant to scare you, Mama. Once again, most babies are born without any defects at all.
Running out of time? PIN IT for later!
5 Questions You Might have Right Now About Your Breech Baby
How are Breech Babies Delivered?
Very, very carefully and with a provider that specializes in the field. Breech births focus on a hands-off approach where your provider (either a midwife or doctor) does not attempt to touch your baby until most of the body has been delivered. A breech delivery is much more hands-on, often employing turning techniques.
You need to be aware of the complications associated with the breech delivery, as well as decide if you want to try a breech birth vs. a breech delivery.
In most situations in the U.S., any kind of breech delivery or birth is not an option, which leaves an ECV, planned c-section, or turning the baby naturally.
Can Breech Babies Turn After 36 Weeks?
Yes, absolutely! Although it’s more difficult for a baby to turn around in such snug quarters, you can turn your breech baby after 36 weeks. If you opt for an external cephalic version, your chances of success are about 50-50. However, if you choose to turn your baby naturally, techniques like moxibustion can increase your chances by 30%. Some studies even show an 80% success rate!
My own baby turned at 39 weeks. We didn’t even discover this until I was at the hospital for my c-section. It can happen, I promise!
What if my Baby is Breech Before 36 Weeks?
Don’t sweat it. Most babies turn on their own before you ever reach full-term. I would begin some exercises to encourage him in the correct position and try not to stress about it (remember stress is your enemy here). If you’re absolutely sure that he’s breech (I mean 100% sure) you can even try inversion therapy.
Visit my breech baby resource page for tons of exercises that are appropriate for babies younger than 36 weeks.
How Can Breech Be Prevented?
Significant research shows that regular mild exercise can position your baby correctly.
Having said that, research also indicates that if a woman has one breech baby, she is much more likely to have more breech pregnancies in the future. I’m willing to bet that at some point those women asked, “Why are all of my babies breech?” and did everything in their power to prevent future breech pregnancies without success. That leads me to believe that there is a strong maternal genetic or physiological component to a breech baby.
If you want to prevent future breech presentations, I think you should give it your all. Even if you’re one of those mamas that keep having breech babies, at least you know that you tried everything you could.
Just a side note, after I gave birth, I found out that I have major hip issues. As I’m writing this, I’m still going to physical therapy to correct these issues. Since I’m a first-time mom, I can’t say definitively that I am more prone to breech pregnancies. However, since I have issues that are known for causing a breech presentation, I would assume that I am. If you’re in the same situation, my (totally non-medical) advice is to do everything you can to correct the issue before your next pregnancy (if possible) and proactively position your baby during pregnancy.
How Do I know if My Baby is Head Down or Breech?
Some of the most effective exercises for turning a breech baby can have a negative effect on babies that are head-down.
When you’re doing everything in your power to turn a breech baby naturally, there’s nothing more frustrating than doubting her position. So, without going to your midwife every day for palpitation an ultrasound, how do you know if your baby is breech?
There are quite a few signs of a breech baby that I noticed:
- Hard kicks to the pelvis
- High heartbeat location
- Extreme discomfort over your ribcage
- Hard lump near your ribcage (the head)
- Hiccups very high up (this isn’t a medically-proven symptom but I sure noticed it)
Over time, you’ll be able to identify these symptoms much easier and you can use your weekly palpitations sessions to confirm your suspicions.
If you want to know more about the signs of a breech baby (or symptoms that your baby turned head-down!) I go over this topic in much more detail in the post below.
What to Do if Your Baby is Breech: The Next Steps to Take For Your Breech Baby
Okay, Mama. Those are the basics of a breech baby. I really hope this post helps clear up some of the confusion with your situation.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your breech pregnancy, if you’re not quite sure what to do next, you NEED to read my next post. I’m going to give you a step-by-step plan on how to tackle your breech pregnancy.
Remember, eventually that your feisty baby WILL be born and she’ll come with plenty of “baby blunders.”. Join my bi-weekly newsletter for easy baby tips to make your life easier!
See you in the next post!