Most babies arrive head first, but not always. Sometimes the baby is in a bottom-first or feet-first position. This is what’s known as a breech birth or breech baby.
The term breech often scares soon-to-be moms, especially if they're getting close to their due date. What I need you to remember is that nearly 97 percent of babies are set to come out head first. That leaves only a 3 percent chance of your baby being breech or transverse lie, meaning situated on their side. In the weeks before your due date, chances are your baby will move to a head down position even if he or she isn’t positioned that way at your most recent ultrasound. In fact, nearly a quarter of babies are breech at the beginning of the third trimester. Most turn head down on their own over the next two months.
Frank, Complete, or Footling Breech
There are different types of breech presentations. Among these are frank breech, where the bottom is first and feet are up near the head, complete breech where your baby's bottom is first with legs crossed Indian style, or footling breech, where one or both feet are positioned to come out first.
If Baby Doesn’t Make the Turn
If your baby is still breech in your 36th or 37th week, your physician may try to physically manipulate the baby into a head down position. This procedure is called an external cephalic version, or an ECV. The success rate of ECVs is a little less than 60 percent, with success being greater if it isn't your first pregnancy. Sometimes after an ECV, the baby will still turn back into a breech position. Not all women can have this type of procedure, and it does come with some risks, so make sure to talk about the pros and cons with your physician before the procedure is done.
Some women look to natural ways to try to turn their babies. These methods include exercise positions, certain stimulants like music or temperature, and alternative medicine. There’s no scientific evidence they work, however.
Most babies that are breech are born by planned cesarean delivery. A planned vaginal birth of a single breech fetus may be considered in some situations. Both vaginal birth and cesarean birth carry certain risks when a fetus is breech; however, the risk of complications is higher with vaginal delivery than with cesarean delivery.
Dr. Salinas is a board-certified OB/GYN specialist and Managing Physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Woman’s Center. His clinical interests include obstetrics and preventive gynecologic health, as well as minimally invasive office and surgical procedures.