Understanding Breech Birth

 The term breech refers to several abnormal positions that a baby may get into prior to birth.  A breech birth is therefore referred to as the delivery of a baby feet or bottom first.  Roughly 3-4 % of babies appear to be in breech position. However, not all of them are delivered vaginally. 

Some doctors from various parts of the world have been known to turn babies in a head-down position through a process called External Cephalic Version (ECV). This is however after 37 weeks pregnancy.

There are complications associated with breech births.  Therefore, while expectant, you need to get routine antenatal check ups and ultrasounds to determine if your baby is breech. 

A midwife or medical practitioner with experience needs to guide you through it, if you have a breech baby. 

What Options Do I Have if I Have a Breech Baby?

There are options that your doctor will take you through when you have a breech baby. These are:

  • Vaginal BirthVaginal birth is a practical option in some cases. Note that, some practitioners can help you deliver frank and complete breeches vaginally. These positions mostly present the baby’s bottom which is almost similar to a baby’s head. Therefore, it is at least likely for the baby to get stuck in the pelvis during delivery. Also, keep in mind that in some cases, babies may turn head down before or during labour.

Although vaginal breech is doable, there are associated risks, which include head trauma, cord prolapse, and genetic complications. Your midwife should however advice you on the safety of your situation.

  • Caesarean BirthSometimes, you may plan for a vaginal birth but your practitioner rejects it. In fact, most obstetricians regard C-section as a suitable option for safe delivery.  Ultrasound results play a huge role in making such decisions. If your baby is premature, caesarean delivery is suitable because he is small and more delicate. Also, there is little chance that he can stretch the cervix given the fact that his head is relatively bigger than other body parts.

 Kenya,like in other parts of the world uses caesarean birth common method of delivery during breech births.

What Is Involved in A Vaginal Breech Birth?

 There are two techniques to enable you to have a safe delivery if your baby is in a breech position:

  • Assisted Vaginal Breech Delivery

This way involves continuous monitoring of your condition during labour. You can still keep upright and move about with some support. Pain relief options, like in normal births, are also given.  During the pushing phase, the midwife will use a hands-off technique till your baby is safely delivered.

  • Active Vaginal Breech Delivery

 This technique is less common in Kenya because few practitioners are experienced in it. The method is more effective if your labour has developed on its own. Here, you’re advised to push only when you feel the urge to do so. Adoption of the “hands-off” is common. However, your midwife intervenes only when necessary.

How Will the Doctor Know when To Allow Vagina Delivery?

The following conditions are essential in determining if you can attempt a vaginal delivery:

  • When the baby is in a full-term stage and in a frank breech position
  • When are no signs of distress in the baby
  • When estimation shows that the baby is of suitable size
  • When the labour process is smooth

 It is essential to visit your practitioner before delivery. Your doctor can effectively determine the position of your baby and advise on what to do. Kenyan hospitals advise that mothers with breech babies should be monitored keenly because of underlying factors such as:

  • Haemorrhage, 
  • Obstructed labour 
  • Dropping of the umbilical cord through the cervix.


#Please note that development differs from one child to another

# Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: americanpregnancy, cdcfoundation, familydoctor, howtoadult

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