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Signs of Breech Baby Delivery Parents Should Know

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 24, 2021

Signs of Breech Baby Delivery Parents Should Know

Pregnancy is a special time for mothers and their partners. To prepare for delivery, mothers are encouraged to visit their OB-GYNs regularly for prenatal care. Prenatal care ensures that mothers stay healthy throughout their pregnancies and that their fetus grows normally. However, even with the best prenatal care, surprises can still happen along the way. Identify the signs of breech baby delivery and learn how to deal with it.

signs of breech baby

What is Breech Position?

Normally, pregnancy lasts for about 40 weeks. During the third trimester, especially when nearing term or 37 weeks , the presentation of the baby is more or less determined.. The more common position is the cephalic presentation.Aside from being the typical position, it is also the safest for the mother and baby for vaginal delivery.

If a fetus is breech, it means that it has not turned in the womb before delivery. In this position, the lower limbs are the presenting part instead of the head. While the baby is likely healthy, breech delivery can be complicated and may require a Caesarian section (C-section).

There are 3 types of breech presentations:

  1. Frank breech: The buttocks of the baby is the presenting part with the legs unbent and oriented toward the chest and head. This is the most frequent type of breech. 
  2. Complete breech: The buttocks of the baby is in the entrance of the birthing canal, while both legs are bent at the knees.
  3. Footling or incomplete breech: One or both of the legs are unbent with the foot oriented toward the entrance of the birthing canal.

How to Prevent Vaginal Tearing During Childbirth

Signs of Breech Baby Presentation

In most cases, mothers do not realize their baby is in breech position unless an ultrasound is done. However, there are a few signs of breech baby positioning that a woman and her doctor can notice before delivery.

Kicking placement

Pregnant women can usually feel their baby kicking in the womb around 16 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. These movements may follow a pattern each day. Long periods without movement signal that something is wrong and should be checked immediately.

In the case of breech positioning, kicking will still happen but may feel different from a cephalic positioning. For frank breech, kicking may not feel as strong because of the position of the legs and feet. In complete breech, kicks can be felt in the lower part of the abdomen. Incomplete breech positions may be felt lower in the abdomen and toward the mid-section.

Fullness under the ribcage

In addition to the kicks, the position of the head can be another sign of breech baby position. A baby’s head is the largest part of its body. In normal position, the head is oriented toward the pelvis. In breech position, the head is still in the upper portion of the abdomen. 

Standing in front of a mirror and checking the shape of the belly is one way to check. The tummy may be fuller in the upper portion toward the ribcage. A mother might have trouble breathing fully if the baby’s head is pushing against the diaphragm.

signs of breech baby

Causes and Risk Factors

Unfortunately, the exact reason why some babies do not turn in the womb before delivery is not confirmed. According to statistics, less than 5% of full-term babies are breech. Some maternal factors that make breech position more likely are previous history of a breech baby, abnormal uterus shape or size, leiomyoma, placentation, or multiparity (e.g. twins or triplets).

Prolonged gestation or post-term pregnancy is another factor that makes breech position more likely. However, breech position can still occur even in preterm and full-term babies.

Management of Breech Presentation

Although breech babies are usually normal and healthy, the position can cause trouble for the mother and child. The reason why cephalic or head-first presentation is considered ideal for vaginal birth is because a baby’s head is designed to be moldable. Babies have softer heads with unfused bone plates with spaces called fontanelles.

These “soft spots” or fontanelles allow for the baby to safely squeeze through the birthing canal during delivery. In breech delivery, the legs can get caught or block the body from exiting properly. Additionally, another complication is cord prolapse.

In order to correct the position, a doctor can perform a maneuver known as external cephalic version (ECV). ECV is usually recommended near or past a baby’s expected delivery date. The maneuver involves applying moderately strong pressure with the hands to gently turn the baby around in the womb. ECV works in about 50% of cases. However, some babies will return to breech position even after a successful ECV. If ECV is not successful, most doctors recommend C-sections for breech deliveries.

Never attempt to perform ECV on yourself or at home.

Key Takeaways

In summary, abnormal kicks and tummy shape are a couple signs of breech baby position. Thankfully, breech babies are generally healthy and develop normally after birth. For more information, talk to your OB-GYN doctor.

Learn more about Birth Complications here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jun 24, 2021

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