A mother’s instincts are strong.
For the last 9 months, you’ve become well-acquainted with your baby. You’ve felt his movements, you know his habits.
Now, things feel off. Your gut is telling you that your baby isn’t where he should be.
If you’re wondering how to tell if your baby is breech, you’re not alone. During my pregnancy, I searched for the signs of a breech baby all over the internet and could only find forum posts by other women that were just as confused.
This post describes the most commonly reported signs of a breech baby. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will either find peace of mind or confirmation that a doctor’s visit is in order.
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. The research and articles on breech pregnancies is vast, but overwhelming. That’s why I created this Breech Baby Series. I hope here you’ll find all of the answers you need to cope with your breech pregnancy.
Here are the other posts in the Breech Baby Series:
- Your Breech Baby: The Facts You Need to Know
- 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. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
The Signs of a Breech Baby: Is there an Absolute Indicator of a Breech Baby?
The information below is taken from the experiences of other mothers and myself. While the only diagnosis of a breech baby can come from an ultrasound, I fully believe you should be aware of these signs so you can decide what your next course of action should be.
Here are some pretty strong indicators that your baby is head down:
- Kicks near the rib cage
- Fluttering in the pelvis (baby’s fingers)
- Punches to pelvis
- Pressure or heaviness in the pelvis (sign of engagement)
- Small, pliable bulge near the rib cage (the baby’s butt)
- Hiccups below the belly button
If you’re seeing these signs then congratulations! There’s a good chance your baby is head down.
(By the way, if you’re still preparing for your “big day”, there are a ton of free resources you can find to do so. My absolute favorite tools include the Bump Smart pregnancy email course by Mom Smart Not Hard and the Free Beginning Prenatal Course by Pulling Curls!)
10 Telltale Signs of a Breech Baby
Assuming you’re not seeing the signs of a head down baby, below are the symptoms that your baby may actually be breech.
Hard Bulge Near Rib Cage
This is the most common sign of a breech baby, but it’s also the most difficult to verify. Many moms mistake their baby’s butt for a head. It can be really difficult to feel the difference from the outside. Generally speaking, if you press on the bulge and it moves or you get a nice kick, that’s a good indication that it’s your baby’s butt.
Personally, I noticed that the head was much more prominent and less mobile. Meanwhile, her butt could be pushed around and would disappear for a few hours.
Baby Will Not Engage
Lightening, engaging, or dropping.
This magical transition happens sometime during your last few weeks of pregnancy. Your baby’s head migrates into your pelvis, giving your poor lungs a small break. You can tell that your baby has engaged when you feel pressure on your pelvis or you need to pee more frequently.
Many breech babies do not engage until labor or until he has flipped head down.
Just keep in mind that your baby may not be engaging for several reasons; some babies simply don’t engage until labor (especially with new moms) and others won’t engage because they are posterior.
Light Kicks or Punches to the Upper Abdomen
This was a huge sign for me. After a terrible night of twisting and turning, I felt a hard bulge by my rib cage and only small kicks into my side. Considering my baby had been an amateur soccer player until this point, this was definitely a red flag.
A few days later, an ultrasound established that I had a Frank Breech.
If you have a particularly feisty baby, it can be difficult to tell the difference between kicks and punches. A kick should feel more pronounced, with a larger footprint. A punch is often lighter.
Keep in mind that an anterior head down baby (the optimal birthing position) will not kick your front upper abdomen either. You’ll feel those kicks behind your ribs.
SHORT ON TIME? PIN IT FOR LATER!
Kicks to Pelvis or Cervix (Footling Breech)
You’ll know when your baby kicks your cervix. It’ll feel like a kick to the crotch…from the inside. This is not to be confused with a punch to the cervix. When a baby’s hands are near your pelvis, you might feel a slight tickling or butterfly from her fingers. That’s a great indication that your baby is NOT breech.
Unusual or Fetal Painful Movement
The further you are in your gestation, the more snug your baby’s quarters. You will be much more likely to feel your baby flip. For some women, this is just mildly uncomfortable. For others, it’s very, very painful.
For me, flipping was very painful. The night she turned breech it felt like my insides were being churned. I felt a similar experience during the night (I suspect) she turned head down. However, many women do not experience pain when their baby turns. This symptom largely depends on your amniotic fluid, your baby’s size, and your physiology.
If you do feel prolonged pain, go to your doctor, if only for your peace of mind.
Pressure on Your Rib Cage
Your baby’s head is the largest part of her body. When she’s engaged, all of that pressure rests not-so-comfortably on your pelvic bone. One sign of a breech baby is pressure on your lungs and rib cage. This can make it difficult to breathe, sleep, or even sit.
High Heartbeat Location
Some moms report finding their breech baby’s heartbeat above their belly button. If you get these results, try not to panic. Your amniotic liquid may transfer the sound, giving an inaccurate representation.
Head Can’t be Found in Pelvis During a Palpitation
This is how most women discover that their baby is breech. At your weekly checkup, your doctor may palpitate to feel your baby’s head. If your baby is breech, your pelvis will feel unusually squishy (as opposed to a hard lump where the head is).
However, many doctors will not rely on palpitation alone to determine if a baby is breech. Most likely, he will schedule an ultrasound visit to confirm your baby’s position.
Hiccups Above the Belly Button
One of the most commonly reported (though thankfully inaccurate) signs of a breech baby is tiny hiccups above the belly button.
This was actually one of the clues I noticed when my baby was breech. After my baby turned head down, I felt hiccups in my pelvis again. If your only symptom of a breech baby is high hiccups, try not to worry. Like your baby’s heartbeat, you may be feeling the vibrations travel or his little feet twitching.
Discomfort and Soreness
When your baby is breech, your upper torso may feel very, very uncomfortable and, in some cases, tender.
Your baby is designed to nestle into your pelvis, preparing the birth canal and allowing his little body to grow. When your baby is breech, the biggest part of him is sitting on your lungs and ribs. You’re not feeling the same relief that you might for a head down baby. In fact, you might feel very stretched and the constant pressure can feel like a deep bruise.
What do I do if I Think My Baby is Breech?
Only 3-4% of babies reach full-term breech. Even if you’re feeling a couple of these symptoms, chances are, your baby is still head-down. However, you should always trust your gut (literally, in this case). If you’re beginning to notice changes in your baby’s position, visit your doctor. At the very least, you’ll find some reassurance.
If you do discover that your baby is breech, don’t panic. It’s never too late to flip a baby, even this late in the third trimester. My baby turned at 39 weeks! It is possible, I promise.
If you find that your baby is head-down, it may be a good idea to belly map to check which direction your baby is facing. Some of the signs of a breech baby are also indicative of a posterior baby. Depending on you and your baby, a posterior presentation can mean a harder, longer labor.
The good news is, even if your baby is posterior, there are plenty of methods to encourage him into the optimal birthing position.
Related Post: How to Turn Posterior Baby for an Easier Labor
How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech With Belly Mapping
In case you’re new to the concept, belly mapping uses a combination of light palpitation, drawing, and tracking your baby’s movements to gauge his position. When your baby is vertex, belly mapping is a great tool to make sure your baby is in the optimal birthing position (anterior).
Belly mapping a breech baby can be tricky since your baby’s butt feels a lot like his head. The success of belly mapping largely depends on you and your baby’s physiology. If you’re overweight or have an anterior placenta, you won’t be as successful with belly mapping.
However, belly mapping should be a trick you keep in your toolbox. Once your provider has established that your baby is breech, it can be a great way to track his progress. Just take into account the special movements and characteristics of a breech baby.
That’s it, Mama!
I hope these signs either reassure you or convince you to visit your doctor. Remember, if you do find out that your baby is breech, it’s not the end of the world–even after 36 weeks. The important thing is to diagnose a true breech presentation so you can take the necessary steps to flip that baby.
Did I miss something? If you’ve found out that your baby is breech and you experienced signs not on this list, please let us know in the comments below!
Medical Disclaimer: While I can give you advice based on my experience, none of this post should be substituted for actual medical advice. The best way to determine if your baby is breech is to visit your doctor. DO NOT BEGIN INVERSION THERAPY UNLESS YOUR DOCTOR HAS CONFIRMED THAT YOUR BABY IS BREECH.