How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech - 10 Signs of a Breech Baby
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10 Signs of a Breech Baby: How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech

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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 first 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.

If you’re having the same trouble, this post is for you.

This article describes the most commonly reported signs of a breech baby and how to tell if your baby is breech. Hopefully, by the end, you will either find peace of mind or confirmation that a doctor’s visit is in order.

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

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First things, first. Let’s talk about the differences between a cephalic baby and a breech baby. When your baby is cephalic, he’s head down. The optimal position for giving birth is anterior cephalic. Basically, in this position, your baby’s head will fit nicely into the birth canal.

If your baby’s head is near your ribs and his feet are in your pelvis, he’s breech. There are several different types of breech positions, but we’ll get to that in another post.

Breech births are possible, but they are generally more difficult and, at times, can be dangerous. Generally speaking, most providers do not want to mess with a vaginal breech birth.

Now, you should know that the only way to know that your baby is breech is to confirm with your provider.

The information below is based on the experiences of other mothers, midwives, and myself.  It’s important to be aware of these signs, especially later in your pregnancy, because it will give you the chance to take the necessary steps to correct it.

Signs Your Baby is NOT Breech

If you don’t know already, 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.

How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech With Belly Mapping

Before we dive into the signs of a breech baby, let’s talk about one more important concept: belly mapping. My first pregnancy, I had no idea what belly mapping is. Now, I love using this technique to give me some peace of mind that my baby is head down.

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. If your baby is vertex, belly mapping is a great tool to make sure your baby is in the optimal birthing position.

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. For example, if you’re overweight or have an anterior placenta, belly mapping will be less reliable.

Belly mapping is also a great way to check your baby’s progress if your provider diagnoses him as breech. Just take into account the special movements and characteristics of a breech baby.

10 Most Common Signs of a Breech Baby

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!

Signs of a Breech Baby You Need to Know About

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.

In my case, 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.

Related Post: 8 Sneaky Ways to Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain

 

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. 

How to Tell if Your Baby is Actually Breech - Signs of a Breech Baby

 

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.

Related Post: Turning a Breech Baby: 10 Ways to Turn Your Breech Baby Naturally

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.

That’s it, Mama!

Most of all, 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.

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!

Signs Baby is Breech

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8 Comments

  1. I am 35weeks and my baby is breech, the doctor ask me to prepare for CS and am sad… I hope the baby still turn

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope your baby did end up turning. If not, your birth story is unique and beautiful whether it ends in a c-section or natural birth <3

  2. I’m 36 weeks and I had expressed concern to my OBGYN at a much earlier date about the possiblity of having a breech baby. She told me then that there was still plenty of time for him to flip, and to try not to worry too much about it until closer to delivery. Well, I’m almost 37 weeks now and she still hasn’t checked his position. Most days I notice a firm bulge on my right side by my ribs and experience movements all across the center of my abdomen. Occasionally there will be pressure in my pelvic region, but by the end of the night it’s all back to the center. I dont know what to do since this is my 1st child, and as time dwindles I get more and more uneasy.

    1. Hey Brooke,
      I can definitely understand your concern here! Honestly, from your description it sounds like it could go either way. It’s SO hard to FEEL the difference between a breech baby and head down baby, the only real way to know for sure is by your provider. I definitely would NOT worry (not many babies are breech) but I would also mention your concerns to your OBGYN again. Maybe she can feel around, perform an unofficial ultrasound (if she has a portable ultrasound handy) or she can check the heartbeat location. At the very least, it will give you peace of mind!

  3. annita oluchi says:

    I am 32weeks, and my baby is in breech, pls I pray he or she will turn.and my left abdomen is paining me, mostly when ever am walking, pls I want to know the reason for that.

    1. Annita, I’m sorry to hear that. Try not to worry though, 32 weeks is still plenty of time for her to turn! Don’t lose hope! I would definitely speak to your provider about the abdomen pain. I experienced this as well and it was simply because my daughter’s position was the worst (at one point, she was transverse…ouch!). Your pain could be completely normal, but I would double-check just in case 🙂

  4. I found out at 37 weeks my baby was breech. The medical professional did not recognize this, I ask for the ultrasound which made the late determination. The breech doctor saw me at 38 weeks and told me my baby was too big and could not flip. I diligently did not listen and did all breech remedies to flip her. I slept on inverted board upside down, did pelvic floor excersizes, ate foods to induce labor. I even did not show up for my scheduled C section because I believed I could get her into position. So 5 days after missed C section I went into natural labor, I checked into the hospital. I spent 8 hours in labor, all the while the head midwife pleaded with me to get C section. So I caved and was tired. The doctor said my baby was at risk and we were both declining. I am still sad about this birth birth and delivery. Though my daughter is now two years of age and is healthy. I guess live and learn is all I can take from this experience. Good luck to any woman with breech births.

    1. Aw, Shay thank you for sharing your story. I’ve heard a few stories where the babies were able to flip head down just in the nick of time and others, like yours, where that baby just would not flip! I know it can be such a bummer, but who knows what might be going on behind the scenes! Maybe the baby instinctively knew that flipping could be more dangerous than her current position. In any case, I am so, so glad that your little one is healthy and completely oblivious to her little prenatal adventure!

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