My Baby is Breech: What Are My Options
What Does it Mean?
In full-term births, about 97% of babies are in the head-down position (cephalic position) when labour begins. The remaining 3% are mostly breech — when the baby is born buttocks- or feet-first. Breech-position births make the birth process more challenging as the baby’s body emerges before their largest part, the head, which may mean that the baby may not be born as easily.
What Happens if my Baby has Not Turned and my Delivery Date is Approaching?
A baby is not considered to be in the breech position until Week 35 or Week 36. Unfortunately, babies who are still breech at this time are unlikely to turn on their own. This is because the baby is now too big and has run out of room to turn into the correct head-down position.
Your doctor will know if your baby is in breech position at this stage by feeling his or her position in your abdomen and confirming this via an ultrasound.
What are the Possible Complications?
In most cases, breech pregnancies are not dangerous until the time of baby’s birth. This is because there is a higher risk of the baby getting stuck in mum’s birth canal, which may lead to the baby’s supply of oxygen through the umbilical cord being cut off.
Is a C-section the Only Option?
No, it isn’t, but the vast majority of breech babies are born via caesarean section (C-section) and it is considered the safest route possible in such cases. According to research done in the year 2000 where over 2,000 women across 26 countries were studied, planned C-sections were found to be safer for such babies as compared to vaginal births.
External Cephalic Version (ECV)
This procedure involves your doctor applying pressure to your midsection to try to manually shift your baby into the correct position. ECV is said to have a 60% success rate and is said to be most likely successful if:
- It’s not your first baby as previous pregnancies make the stomach wall more flexible and help with the procedure
- The baby has not dropped into the woman’s pelvis
- There is enough amniotic fluid for turning the baby
EV/ECV is not recommended for women:
- Carrying more than one baby (i.e. twins or more)
- Who have placenta previa (a low placenta)
- Who have medical conditions such as heart problems, that prevent her from receiving certain medicines that prevent womb contractions
- Whose wombs do not have a normal shape
You might feel some discomfort during the procedure, depending on how sensitive your belly is and how much pressure your doctor uses.
The procedure is closely monitored at all times through a foetal ultrasound and electronic foetal heart monitoring. If your baby shows any signs of distress during the procedure, it is immediately stopped.
If a first attempt is not successful in turning your baby, your doctor may attempt a second round using an epidural anesthesia.
Serious complications are not common with ECVs but they are always performed in a hospital just in case an emergency C-section is needed.