By the late stages of pregnancy, most babies lie with their heads down, closest to the cervix. Sometimes babies lie with their bottom or feet closest to the cervix – this is known as “breech”. If your baby is in the breech position, it makes birth more difficult, and increases the risk of interventions and complications.
3-4% of babies will be in the breech position towards the end of pregnancy. Your baby’s position will be checked at your 36-week appointment. If your midwife suspects that your baby is not head down, you will be referred for a scan to confirm this.
If your baby is confirmed to be in the breech position, you will speak to a consultant to discuss your options. You may be offered an external cephalic version (ECV) which involves the doctor manually turning your baby into the head down position by placing hands on your abdomen.
This can be uncomfortable for you but is generally safe for your baby. This will happen at either Dorset County Hospital or University Hospitals Dorset in Poole. If this is not appropriate for you (e.g. multiple pregnancy, high risk pregnancy) or if the ECV is unsuccessful, the doctor will discuss delivery options with you. This will either be a vaginal breech birth or an elective caesarean.
If you decide to have a vaginal breech birth, you will be advised to have your baby in a consultant-led unit. You’ll need to have continuous monitoring to make sure your baby is coping well. If your baby’s heart rate drops or your labour is not progressing, you might need an emergency caesarean.
Learn more about breech position and ECV’s.