During labor and delivery, the most desirable position for the birthing process is head down. That doesn’t always happen. The baby can end up in breech position, without the head down, when entering the birth canal.
When you are pregnant, it is common to feel your baby move around, upside down, sideways, all over. Sometimes you can even make out the head or foot poking at odd angles against your abdomen. It’s cute to watch, but once the delivery gets near, your little one should settle down with its head nicely situated down toward the birth canal.
In the weeks immediately before labor, the baby gets ready for delivery. The baby will change position so that he or she can pass through the birth canal. The “head down” position is the way your baby wants to be before delivery day. With the head first, the doctor will be able to clear the airway and nasal passages immediately upon delivery.
The term “breech” is used to describe the baby’s position when he or she is not turned head down for delivery. What are the reasons for a breech presentation of a baby? There can be several:
- Premature birth
- Multiple births
- Lack of amniotic fluid
- Placental previa
There are three different classifications of breech positioning:
- Frank breech – The baby’s butt is positioned to be delivered first. The baby is curled up tight, in half, with the feet near the head.
- Complete breech – This position is similar to the Franck breech, but the knees are bent and possibly crossed at the ankles. The feet are in front of the buttocks which are still positioned to be delivered first.
- Footling breech – In this position, the first body part to be delivered will be the right or the left foot. One of the legs has positioned itself in the birth canal and the head is up.
What to do?
An ultrasound alerts your doctor that the baby is in the breech position. If it is confirmed that the baby has not moved into the head down position as you approach full term (at least 37 weeks), the doctor has several options:
- Abdominal positioning – This is best accomplished as early as possible. The doctor will attempt to gently turn the baby using abdominal manipulation from the outside. The baby’s heart rate will be closely monitored during the technique for any signs of distress.
- Chiropractic positioning – In this instance, a chiropractor that is experienced with breech birth and pregnancy can use subtle techniques to help the baby turn on its own.
Discovering that your baby is in a breech position does not mean that you will necessarily have a difficult labor or a caesarean section. Your doctor will use different methods before labor to correct the breech and will continue to monitor your baby’s position during labor in order to deliver your baby safely to your waiting arms.