With breech presentation, your baby is in a buttocks—or feet-first position. Babies are usually in a head-first position. A breech presentation can make it hard for the baby’s head to fit through the birth canal during delivery. This can cause lack of oxygen or nerve damage in your baby.
Your healthcare provider can tell that your baby is in a breech presentation by gently pressing on your belly. If after about 35 weeks your baby still isn’t in a head-first position, you may have a test called ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to form an image of your baby on a screen.
As you near your due date, your baby may be in one of the following three breech presentations:
The baby’s buttocks point down toward the birth canal. The legs extend up toward the head.
The baby sits cross-legged. The buttocks point down and the knees are bent. The feet are tucked under the legs.
One or both of the baby’s feet or legs are stretched down into the birth canal. The buttocks are also pointing downward.
Even if the baby’s position can’t be changed, a breech baby can sometimes be born vaginally, although this is rare. Your healthcare provider will discuss the risks with you. More often, a cesarean section (surgical delivery) is done. You will have anesthesia (medicine to block pain). But you may remain awake and alert.
Whether you give birth vaginally or by cesarean section, you and your baby will most likely be fine. Just because your baby is in a breech position doesn’t mean that he or she will have health problems.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may try to turn the baby head-down by applying pressure on your abdomen. This technique is called an external cephalic version. If this works, you might be able to have a vaginal delivery. Your healthcare provider will discuss this with you.