Breech Baby: Types and Causes
Most mothers who are expecting are aware that there are really two types of delivery. The first being through the vaginal canal and the second being Cesarean delivery. This is often called a c-section and there are many reasons why a doctor may go ahead with this route. One of them is when the baby is breech.
About 3-4 percent of babies will be breeched at the time of delivery. While this number is low it doesn’t hurt to understand a little more. Let’s talk about all the different kinds of breech and at what stages of this pregnancy a breech baby can occur.
What is a breech baby?
A breech baby is when the positioning of the baby is upside down in the womb. This is when the feet are closest to the birthing canal and the head is closest to the mother’s heart. You may think this is normal but actually, babies must be delivered head first for safety when going through the birth canal.
A baby doesn’t start this way, often the baby will turn to get into the correction position as a way of getting ready for birth. There are a few different breaches that are slightly different from one another.
Types of breech positions
There are essentially three different breaches that can happen. Each of them is slightly different in the positions of the baby. The three are Frank Breech, Complete Breech, and Footling Breech. Here are some of the key differences between them.
Frank breech is when the baby’s feet are folded up towards their head so that their bottom is near the birthing canal, their head is pointing up to the heart of the mother and their feet are too. Frank breech is actually one of the more safe breeches.
This position is where the baby’s bottom is still down near the birthing canal and the knees are bent but the feet are also still near the birthing canal. This is slightly more dangerous than the Frank Breech because of the foot’s position.
Potentially the most dangerous breech that almost guarantees a c-section is the footling breech. This is when the baby’s feet are completely extended and need the birthing canal. The position is just more difficult for the baby to naturally turn to get ready for delivery.
What causes a breech baby?
It can be difficult for a doctor to specify the exact reason behind the mother having a baby in the breech position. While there is no guaranteed reason why doctors can offer up several following causes that can contribute to the cause.
- The mother has had several pregnancies before.
- The pregnancy is trainable or more.
- Any premature births in any past pregnancies.
- Low or high amniotic fluid levels can contribute.
- Complications or abnormalities in the uterus.
- If the mother has placenta previa.
Can you turn a breech baby?
Sometimes the best solution for everyone’s safety will be having a c-section. There are however natural and procedural efforts a doctor can do if this isn’t the best option. ECV the procedure does have associated risks as natural methods are safer to pursue but possibly less effective.
External Cephalic Version is a procedure done by a doctor to help a baby out of their breech position and put them in the birthing position. The doctor will apply some outside pressure to the stomach likely using ultrasound to see how the baby reacts to the certain pressure. This helps encourage the baby to start moving and turn its position.
If you have a healthy pregnancy and no issues ECV is relatively safe to do. However, a doctor will not and should not perform ECV if anything of the following is present for the mother.
- The mother has experienced vaginal bleeding
- A placenta that is covering partially or entirely the opening of the birthing canal.
- A low level of amniotic fluid in the sac helps protect the baby from outside pressures.
- An irregular fetal heart rate.
- Premature ruptures in the membrane
- Twins or any sort of multiples in the pregnancy
ECV is usually not done before 37 weeks of pregnancy as the doctor will make sure everything is in order and safe to do so. Let’s talk about some more natural ways.
Breech Tilt or Pelvic Tilt
This is when you copy the motion of glute bridges that you may have done to work out. To do this position you will lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Put your arms on either side of you to offer yourself balance. Lift your hips off the floor while keeping your shoulders flat on the ground. Stay in this position for about 20 minutes and try doing this three times a day to help move the baby’s position.
Aside from pelvic tilt, there are a couple more moves you can do to promote the baby to start moving around. One of them is the child’s pose. A child’s pose can help change positions but also so can rocking back and forth on your hands and needs. This motion creates tiny movement in the womb and can cause a baby to turn out of their breech.
You may be thinking huh, music? Music has worked in the past because certain sounds are appealing to your baby. This may help create any kind of motion in the stomach. You can put a speaker close to or on your stomach to help the baby hear it. You don’t have to blast it.
Placing something cold where the head of your baby is followed by something warm near its feet may encourage the baby to get away from the cold temperatures and venture towards the warm temperatures.
Acupuncture involves releasing muscle tightness with tiny needles. This can help relax all your muscles including your uterus and allow the baby to move freely.
Breech baby risks
Of course, there are some risks with a breech baby. While it’s more common for doctors to find solutions nowadays for a breech baby, there are some complications that a mother should know about when this occurs.
While a breech baby may be in the position before labor typically a doctor won’t diagnose it until it is time to deliver or just about. This is because doctors want to give time for the baby to turn themselves. It is quite common for the baby to turn later closer to delivery.
The most common way to handle a breech baby during delivery is to go ahead with c-section delivery. However while now routinely performed there are still certain risks that are associated with it. Infections and uncontrolled bleeding are two of the most common concerns when going through with this method, though less common.
When a baby is delivered through the vaginal canal while in the breech position it is more likely to experience delivery to the baby with any of the hip sockets or other parts of the body. It also poses a threat with the umbilical cord getting caught or tangled during the delivery.
Birth defects are less of a result of a breech baby and more of a side effect of something else. A breech baby may be a result of a certain medical complication like placenta previa. Placenta previa can also cause birth defects so actually, these are both results of something greater rather than the cause and effect of each other.
Most babies are delivered healthy after experiencing a breech baby position delivery. The percentages are low for something to go wrong.
Breech baby FAQs
While this is a pretty good overview of breech baby positions it is not uncommon to still have many questions. Breech baby positions sound scary to a mother but the more information you know, the more comfort you can take. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when it concerns breech positions.
How can I tell if my baby is breech?
Doctors will use ultrasound to determine the baby’s position. Just like any of your previous appointments where you can see the baby this time will be no different. This again is not done until closer to the due date.
Doctors may continually check with ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy to see if there are any developing positions like the baby stretching out his or her feet or the baby tucking the legs so that their feet are in the Frank breech position but they are not completely turned over yet.
Other than an ultrasound a doctor may order special x-rays to get a better idea of the baby’s exact position as well as see how big the mother’s canal has gotten to help determine the safety of vaginal delivery. If the birth canal is less wide than desired then the doctor may deem this to be an unsafe natural delivery and or a c-section.
Does a breech baby mean other complications with the baby?
Most breech babies are born healthy without issue. However, there is more risk associated with delivering the baby and possible injuries that can present themselves through this process. Likely this is not a sign that there are any issues with the baby.
While it may not be directly related to a breech baby birth defects are more common with them. The reason may be that the baby is breech due to another medical complication with either the baby or the mother. This isn’t always directly related to the breech per se but the breech being a side effect just like a birth defect or issue.
When does my baby turn to get ready for delivery?
Most babies will turn their position in week 36 to week 37 which is why doctors will not diagnose a breech baby right up until delivery. If the mother is not in labor the doctor may even work with ECV to turn the baby. This again is only if the pregnancy is healthy and the baby nor the mother presents any health issues.
Before ECV is done the doctor may recommend for the mother to start doing any of the natural methods listed above to encourage movement inside the womb. What one baby responds to will be entirely different than another baby which is why trying different things like music, temperature, yoga positions, and or acupuncture is a good idea.
A breech baby is becoming more common to talk about not because the percentages are rising but because handling a breech baby delivery has become more routine and a lot safer than the old days. In years past having a c-section wasn’t common and as it was introduced was thought to be dangerous. Midwives had to prepare to safely deliver a baby through the birthing canal in the breaching position. So before c-section was a think, midwives were still delivering babies. This problem, while uncommon, has been handled for a long time.
Mothers may feel like they need to panic as their baby is in the breech position during their pregnancy but it is common for the baby to turn just before they are getting ready to be delivered. This is why a doctor will use ultrasound and sometimes even x-rays to determine the severity of breech and whether the mother can deliver naturally or not.
Before turning to a c-section delivery a doctor may recommend ECV if the pregnancy is healthy or some natural techniques to turn the baby. This may be done through certain positions, music, temperature, and more. While there are certain risks to a breech baby, most babies are delivered healthy and can give the mother peace of mind. Having a baby in the breech position is something your doctor will continually monitor and talk over the options with you as you approach your due date.