In most cases, a few weeks before being born the unborn baby will ‘drop’ – meaning that his head will move into the birth canal. However, in about 1 of 25 full-term births the baby’s head or feet end up in the birth canal, ready to be born first. This is what is called breech presentation.
Types Of Breech Presentations
There are three different types of breech presentations:
- Frank Breech: the buttocks of the fetus are in position at the birth canal while the legs extend straight up towards the head. This is the most common type of breech presentation.
- Complete Breech: the buttocks of the fetus are down, and the legs are bent at the knee with the feet resting need the buttocks.
- Footling Breech: either one or both of the fetus’ feet are in position at the birth canal.
Causes Of Breech Presentation
While there is no one direct cause of breech presentation, there are some factors that can make a breech birth more likely:
- It is your second, third or later pregnancy
- You are giving birth to multiples
- You have a history of premature labor and delivery
- There is either too much or not enough amniotic fluid
- The uterus is abnormally shaped or has fibroids or other growths
- You have been diagnosed with placenta previa
Diagnosis Of Breech Presentation
As you get closer to your due date your health care provider will pay more attention to where the baby’s head is located. If the doctor feels that the baby is set for a breech presentation then you may be sent for an ultrasound to confirm. X-rays can also be used to confirm the baby’s position and also to measure your pelvis to see if a vaginal delivery can be attempted.
Does A Breech Presentation Indicate A Problem?
Generally breech babies are just fine, but there are higher risks for breech babies than those who are born head-first. Birth defects tend to be a tiny bit more common in breech babies, but one has to consider that the birth defect may be the reason why they are breech.
Can The Baby Be Turned Before Delivery?
There are several ways to turn a breech baby, and the best time to attempt this is between 32-37 weeks. Ask your health practitioner about turning the baby and they may have some suggestions as to which methods they recommend or be able to help you.
Medical Methods To Turn Breech Babies
External Manipulation: This non-surgical procedure is often used by doctors to manually move the baby. Usually this involves medication in order to relax the muscles of the uterus and an ultrasound so the positioning of the baby can be confirmed. The doctor will gently push on the lower abdomen in order to encourage the baby to turn. This procedure is usually successful, but the closer it gets to your due date the more difficult it will become.
Chiropractic Manipulation: The Webster Technique was developed by Larry Webster, D.C. in order to help relieve stress on the pelvis to help the uterus and surrounding tissue relax so that the baby would have more room to turn themselves. Studies have shown that this method is 82% effective, and is usually performed in the 8th month.
Natural Methods To Turn Breech Babies
These natural methods are perfectly safe to do yourself, and are a great idea if you want to try to turn the baby without medical intervention:
Breech Tilt: Using large pillow, prop up your hips until they are about 12 inches off the ground. Try to relax as much as possible, and concentrate on your baby. Do this for 10-15 minutes, three times a day, and try to choose a time where baby is active.
Music: Babies love music, even when they are still inside your tummy. Try to coax them around by placing headphones on your lower abdomen. The noise will encourage baby to turn around and see what it is all about.
Other homeopathic remedies are available to help, such as Moxibustion or Pulsatilla. Contact a holistic health practitioner to see if it will work for your own situation.
Breech Birth – Vaginal Or Cesarean?
Many health practitioners will tell you that a vaginal delivery is not an option in the case of a breech presentation, while others will wait for the woman to be in labor before making a decision. Usually the birth needs to meet the following conditions in order for the health practitioner to allow a vaginal birth attempt:
- The baby must be full-term and a frank breech
- The baby shows no signs of distress when under monitoring
- Labor is progressing smoothly
- The baby is not too big or the mother’s pelvis is wide enough to allow the baby to pass through
- Anesthesia is available at the birthing location as well as access to cesarean on short notice if necessary.
Breech Vaginal Birth – Risks And Complications
Since the baby’s head is the last part to emerge it can be much harder to guide the baby through the birth canal and out. On occasion forceps are needed in order to get the baby’s head out. Another complication is that the umbilical cord gets caught between the baby and the walls of the birth canal which can limit the baby’s supply of oxygen.
During this type of delivery special attention is paid to the condition of the baby using electronic fetal monitoring. If labor does not progress as planned, or if the baby appears to be having difficulty then a cesarean may have to be performed.
When Will A Cesarean Delivery Be Performed?
Some doctors will recommend a cesarean for every breech presentation, while others will only recommend it if the baby is premature, there are other pregnancy complications or if the mother’s pelvis is too wide to accommodate the baby. If you think that you should have a shot at a vaginal delivery, discuss your reasons with your health practitioner, or get a second opinion.