Breech Baby: Causes, Complications, And Turning

Breech Baby: Causes, Complications, And Turning

28 Oct 2022 | 9 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 799 Articles

Between weeks 32-36 of your gestational age, your baby will finally settle into an ideal delivery position, which is the head-down position, where its head will be near your cervix and facing your back. However, not all babies turn their heads toward the cervix. Some settle down in a head-up position by the time you reach the full term of pregnancy. This position is commonly known as the breech position, and babies who have settled down in this position are called breech babies.

But what exactly is the breech position and how does it affect your pregnancy and delivery plans? Find out all the details in this post. 

What Is A Breech Baby?

What Is A Breech Baby?
Your baby is considered to be in a breech position if their head is positioned upward, instead of being near the birth canal / Image credit:

A baby is referred to as a breech baby if their feet and buttocks are positioned to come out of your vagina first, instead of their head. Usually, babies naturally move in the womb to position their head near your cervix, but in the case of a breech baby, the opposite scenario occurs. 

However, even if your baby is in a breech position, there is a high chance that they will move into a head-first position by the 36th week of pregnancy. The head-first position is referred to as the vertex presentation and is considered the safest position for birth. 

Is It Common For Babies To Be In A Breech Position?

About 3-4 percent of babies can end up in a breech position during pregnancy. In most cases, the baby naturally settles into a head-first position before birth, or the doctor uses different techniques to turn your baby safely into the vertex position.

What Are The Types Of Breech Position Your Baby Can Be In?

There are several types of breech positions that your baby can settle down in anywhere between 32-36 weeks.

  • Frank breech position: Your baby’s buttocks are positioned at the vaginal canal and their legs stick straight up in front of their body, and their feet will be near their head.
  • Complete breech position: In this position, your baby’s buttocks are pointed downwards, and both their hips and knees are folded.
  • Footling breech position: One or both of your baby’s feet are pointed downward, and come out of the vaginal canal first, before the rest of their body during delivery.
  • Transverse lie position: In this position, your baby will be positioned horizontally across your uterus instead of vertically. This makes their shoulder positioned near the birth canal.

How Does Your Baby’s Breech Position Affect Your Pregnancy?

Your baby’s breech position will mostly not affect your pregnancy. While most babies are born healthy, some may be at a high risk of birth defects. 

You will also notice that your baby’s movements feel a little different. For instance, you will feel their kicks lower in your belly, and you will also feel a hard clump near your ribs, which is your baby’s head. 

How Does Your Baby’s Position Affect Your Delivery?

If your baby settles down in a breech position during the 36th week of pregnancy, then it can change your birth plan. This is because a vaginal delivery is considered unsafe for a breech baby, as it increases the risk of injuries in your little one. In this case, your doctor might suggest a c-section for childbirth.

In some instances, your healthcare provider might also consider turning your baby into a head-first position to enable a vaginal delivery. But this is only done after your doctor rules out the possibility of any complications.

How Can You Tell If Your Baby Is In A Breech Position?

Mums who have had babies before can easily identify if their baby is in a breech position. Plus, Where you feel your baby’s kicks might indicate a lot about your baby’s position. If your feel your baby’s kicks in the lower part of your belly, then chances are that they are in a breech position.

What Causes Your Baby To Settle In A Breech Position?

There are several factors that can contribute to your baby’s breech position in the womb. Some of the common causes are:

  • You are expecting multiples, making it harder for each baby to settle into the right position.
  • You have too little or too much amniotic fluid.
  • You have abnormal growth in your uterus, such as fibroids.
  • Your placenta is covering all or part of the cervix (a condition known as placenta previa).
  • Your baby has a birth defect, preventing them to settle into a head-first position.

How Is A Breech Baby Diagnosed?

How Is A Breech Baby Diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct an ultrasound to confirm your baby’s breech position / Image credit: Pexels

Your doctor will be able to determine which way your baby is facing by placing their hands in certain parts of your abdomen. If they feel that your baby’s head is not settled near the birth canal, then they will suggest an ultrasound to confirm whether your baby is in a breech position or not.

When Does Your Baby Turn Into A Breech Position?

Almost all babies turn into a breech position sometime during pregnancy. Moreover, as the pregnancy progresses, babies naturally move their bodies into a birthing position between 32-36 weeks. If your baby doesn’t turn into a head-first position by 37 weeks, then you will probably have to change your birthing plans and discuss your delivery with your doctor.

What Are Some Of The Complications Experienced?

While your baby’s breech position doesn’t affect your pregnancy, you might experience certain complications during childbirth, especially if you are delivering vaginally.

  • There is a high risk of injury to your baby’s legs and arms, such as broken or dislocated bones.
  • The umbilical cord might twist around your baby’s body, leading to nerve or brain damage due to a lack of oxygen.

How Will Your Doctor Ensure A Safe Delivery For Your Breech Baby?

If your baby is in a breech position during the 37th week of pregnancy, try a few things to ensure safe delivery.

  • Try turning your baby in the uterus to a head-first position.
  • Plan a vaginal breech birth.
  • Prepare you for a C-section delivery.

Will Your Doctor Flip Your Baby To A Suitable Position?

Will Your Doctor Flip Your Baby To A Suitable Position?
Your doctor will first consider your health and safety before deciding on turning your baby / Image credit: Pexels

Based on your health, your doctor might consider turning your baby into a head-first position to ensure safe vaginal delivery. However, they might refrain from this technique if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Placenta previa; a condition where your placenta covers all or part of your cervix.
  • Bleeding from your vagina
  • Low levels of amniotic fluid
  • Twins or multiples
  • An abnormally small baby
  • Low or high fetal heart rate

If your doctor considers it safe to turn your baby’s position, then they will most commonly use the external cephalic version  (ECV) technique to change your baby’s position. ECV is usually performed around 37 weeks of pregnancy, where your doctor will place their hands on your abdomen and apply firm pressure to settle your baby into a head-down position.

What Are The Risks Of Turing Your Breech Baby?

While the ECV method is considered safe, it carries some amount of risk and can lead to the following conditions:

  • Premature rupture of the amniotic sac
  • Premature labour
  • An emergency c-section
  • Blood loss in either you or your baby
  • In some cases, your baby might turn back into a breech position

Will Your Baby Flip Their Position On Their Own?

Most babies do turn on their own and settle into a head-first position by the 37th week of pregnancy. But if this fails to happen, your healthcare provider will consider the next steps like planning your delivery method and if it is safe to turn your baby’s position while they are in the uterus.

How Can You Flip Your Baby’s Position?

You can also try some at-home methods to turn your baby’s position. While some of these methods can prove helpful, there is no scientific evidence to back these techniques.

  • Bridge position: Lie on your back on a yoga mat, with your legs bent, and your feet flat on the ground. Raise your hips and pelvis into a bridge position and hold for 10 minutes. Repeat this exercise several times a day.
  • Child’s pose: Rest in the child’s pose for about 10-15 minutes. It can help relax your uterus and pelvic muscles. You can also rock back and forth or make circles with your pelvis to promote movement.

Besides these exercises, you can also try placing a headphone on your lower belly to encourage your little one to turn. You can also try acupuncture to change your baby’s position.

How Can You Reduce The Risk Of Having A Breech Baby?

Unfortunately, there are no foolproof methods to prevent your baby from settling into a breech position. However, don’t worry, as you can try a lot of different things to try and turn your baby’s position. So consult your doctor and discuss the safest way to change your baby’s position in the uterus.


Finding out that your baby is in a breech position might concern you. But don’/t worry, it is not a serious condition, and your doctor can try many methods to turn your baby’s position, and also prepare your even if your birthing plan changes. To avoid the risk of any complications, make sure to follow your provider’s advice, and visit a hospital immediately if you notice abnormal signs like vaginal bleeding or abdominal cramping.


Will I need a c-section if my baby is in a breech position?

If your doctor isn’t able to change your baby’s breech position, then they may suggest birth via c-section.

How does labour start if my baby is in a breech position?

Having a breech baby doesn’t change your labour signs.

What questions should you ask your doctor?

You can ask the following questions to your doctor:

  • What to do if my baby is in a breech position?
  • Is it safe to change my baby’s position?
  • Is vaginal delivery safe in this case?

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