What is a Breech Baby: The Guide from a Mom of 2 Breech Babies

Written by a mom of two breech babies, this post answers the question: what is a breech baby and shares other facts you need to know.


What is a Breech Baby (1)

If you’re reading this post, you’ve either been told by your provider that your baby is breech or you suspect your baby might be. Either way, you’re looking for answers. Both of my babies were breech. I understand how frustrating and nerve-wracking this complication can be. So, I wrote this post 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, but try not to worry too much. Both of my daughter’s spun around at 39 weeks. The doctors were a little amazed. Once you’re done reading this post, be sure to check out my other articles for more details on that.

Here are the other posts in the Breech Baby Series:

What is a breech presentation

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. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions. Please only seek medical advice from licensed professionals. 

What is a Breech Baby or a Breech Presentation?

When a baby is breech, his head is not in the optimal head-down position. Near the end of your pregnancy, your baby will rotate into the optimal birth position: cephalic (also known as vertex position). His head will rest in the cradle of your pelvis, while his adorable feet will begin kicking your ribcage. 96-97% of babies naturally move into this position by full-term, thanks to gravity. Unfortunately, the other 3-4% are breech.

Does a Breech Baby Mean Something is Wrong

Not necessarily. 

However, if your baby continues to stay breech when you deliver, you will most likely need a c-section. If your doctor is anything like mine, she may wish to schedule you for a c-section at 39-40 weeks to avoid a difficult labor. 

The thing is, your baby’s head is the largest part of his body. It’s designed to stretch the birthing canal to make way 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 pave the way for birth. Your birth canal may not stretch appropriately, causing your baby to get stuck. This can cause major complications if you give birth vaginally.

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. This is actually the position my firstborn was in. Fun fact: she still sleeps folded in half.
  • Footling- In this breech position, one or both of your baby’s feet are 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, next to 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?

Medical professionals are still trying to answer what causes a breech baby.

I know that answer is frustrating. If 96-97% of full-term babies are head-down. 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.

I believe this is what happened in my case. My hip is severely torqued. Once I received regular physical therapy and chiropractic work, my babies went head-down.

Here few more causes of a breech baby:

  • Frequent sitting
  • Genetic abnormality with child (causal relationship only).
  • Physical abnormalities with the mother, most commonly fibroids or a torqued hip. 
  • Too much or too little amniotic fluid
  • Multiples
  • 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.

Can Breech Babies Turn After 36 Weeks?

Breech Baby Presentation - Prenatal Chiropractic Therapy (1)

Yes, absolutely! While it’s more difficult for a baby to turn around in such snug quarters, a breech baby can turn 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 babies turned at 39 weeks. 

Here are the methods I used:

  • Moxibustion (burning moxa sticks and warming the corner of your pinky toe. I know it sounds hokey, but 80% success rate is nothing to joke about).
  • Weekly prenatal chiropractic sessions
  • Floated in the bathtub (it’s recommended to swim, but I suck at swimming)
  • Pelvic exercises- I watched this video on youtube and used this exercise ball. 
  • Healthy sleep positions- I used a pregnancy pillow to ensure that my posture was aligned at night and I was laying on my optimum side. Most of the moving your baby will do is at night!
  • I practiced inversion exercises

I want to caution you though: be sure of your baby’s position. Some of the most effective exercises for turning a breech baby can have a negative effect on babies that are head-down.  

Related: Turning a Breech Baby: How to Turn a Breech Baby Naturally (Even After 36 Weeks!)

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 doctors or midwives 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

Pregnancy after 35 - Risks (1)

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?

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). 

You might experience a prolonged labor, which causes complications in of itself.

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. Mine certainly were.

Breech Baby FAQ

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.

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.

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).

How Can a Breech Presentation Be Prevented?

Significant research shows that regular mild exercise can encourage your baby to move into the head-down position. Regular exercise allows gravity to it’s best work as well as strengthens your muscles. 

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 2 for 2 right now. At times I’ve asked,  “Why are all of my babies breech?” After I gave birth, I found out that I have minor hip issues. So, I’m assuming my problem is my physiology, combined with the fact that both of my daughters are ridiculously stubborn and love to defy me 🙂

Incidentally, turning my second daughter was much easier. Throughout my pregnancy, I worked out regularly, and I received chiropractic care during most of my third trimester. I also had an incredible natural labor, thanks to the natural birth classes I took. 

I highly recommend staying active if you can. It does make a difference! 

Breech Baby Presentation After 36 Weeks (1)
Me at 38 weeks. My daughter was breech at this point!

How Do I Know If My Baby is Head Down or Breech?

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 or an ultrasound, how do you know if your baby is breech?

I had two breech babies and sometimes it was still hard to tell. However, 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 rib cage (the head)
  • Hiccups very high up (this isn’t a medically-proven symptom but I sure noticed it)

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. 

Related Post:  How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech: 10 Shocking Signs of a Breech Baby

What to Do if Your Baby is Breech: The Next Steps to Take For Your Breech Baby

Okay, Mama. You’ve answered the question, “what is a breech baby.” You know some of the facts, the causes of a breech baby, and the complications. 

Now what? First of all, trust your provider. Like I said, breech babies are becoming more popular. When I was pregnant last time, my doctor was dealing with two breech babies. 

If your mommy gut is telling you not to trust your doctor, there’s no harm in seeking out a second opinion. The main thing is for you to have a provider you trust. Someone who can reassure you and actively help you get past this.

My next post goes through a  step-by-step plan on how to tackle your breech pregnancy. For now,work on turning your baby naturally. If your doctor has okay’d you, seek out a prenatal chiropractor. They will be most familiar with your situation.

If you’re afraid or anxious, let me reassure you from one anxious mom to another: your birth story will be incredible whether your baby turns or not. All of this will become a distant memory once you hold your baby in your arms.

See you in the next post!


Similar Posts