Breech Babies Are Another Variation of Normal

by Birth Without Fear on October 29, 2010

breech baby, frank breech, footling breech, complete breech

With my first child, I knew I wanted a natural birth. I chose the local birth center and hired the team of midwives. I attended my regular appointments and the birth classes they offered. Starting around 30 weeks I questioned the position of my baby. I asked three of the midwives at three different appointments if they could tell if my baby was head down. I was overweight at the time and did not think palpation was enough to determine her position. On midwife #3, I requested that we check it out and she agreed.

At my ultrasound appointment and 36 weeks pregnant, I was not shocked when the ultrasound technician said, “Yep, she is breech.” I was not surprised, but I was devastated. This was not something I was educated about or prepared for. Looking back, I was just along for the ride. Big mistake. My doula told me there was still time for her to turn, but not being educated about this, I wasn’t sure.

I started asking my midwives, chiropractors and friends about breech vaginal birth. All I received were mixed answers and usually, “Yes, it can be done, but if something goes wrong it will happen fast. Why take the risk?!” I did a few things, like hanging upside down frequently and handstands in the pool. My chiropractor did the Webster technique, as it has a high success rate in giving babies more room to turn head down. At 39 weeks I had an inversion done. Let me tell you that is painful and unnatural. Wouldn’t do it again.

Finally at 39 weeks I met with a good OB. My husband and I decided to have a c-section because we knew the OB was there to do it (he was in a practice with 16 docs). It was a very emotional ride.

OK, I know that if you are a birth advocate like me, you are completely cringing by now. Tell me about it. If you are trying to educate yourself more or are finding yourself in this situation, you might be asking, “What can I do differently? I need more information!” I am here to provide just that for you. Educate yourself, pray about it (or meditate) and make the best choice for you and your baby. Be strong and get the right support.

So, you find out that your baby is breech. What now?

Don’t panic! It’s going to be OK. Your baby is breech for a reason. (S)he may or may not turn and can do so even right before birth. So, be patient.

breech baby, frank breech, footling breech, complete breechWhich breech presentation is your baby favoring? There are three common types.

  • Frank Breech, which tends to be the most favorable. This is when baby’s bottom presents first and feet are by the head.
  • Footling Breech is when baby has one or both feet presenting first.
  • Complete Breech is when your baby is comfy sitting cross legged.

There are things you can do to help baby turn if that is what baby wants. Remember, your baby knows best what position to be in for his/her birth. Look into the following options:

Even when you decide to have faith in your body and your baby, you still want to be prepared and know how to help him/her gently enter this world. Here are some things to consider and research.

  • Know and be firm in your knowledge that a breech baby does not automatically mean c-section.
  • Make sure your OB or midwife is 100% on board and does not fear breech birth.
  • Always listen to YOUR intuition. If you have a fear, process it. If someone else does, don’t waiver in your faith. Trust your gut!
  • When birthing, get in a favorable position like standing, squatting, or even hand and knees (unless your body is telling you different).
  • Read a lot of great breech birth stories! Here is one with awesome pictures.
  • Do NOT let anyone (your midwife, spouse, doula, OB, etc.) pull on baby!
  • Something to educate yourself on further is making sure baby’s head is birthed before they start breathing. The book Emergency Childbirth by Gregory J. White was helpful for me.
  • Have a back up plan. There is nothing wrong with having one.  Don’t focus on it, but know it’s there. Continue to have faith that your vaginal birth will be wonderful and successful.
  • If you get nothing else from this post, remember this: even if you have a c-section, WAIT. Wait for baby to start labor. I say this for two reasons. First, you will know for sure that your baby is ready to be earthside. Second, is that you have given your baby every chance to turn head down. In hindsight, my first baby was born at least 3 weeks early as all my other babies have been born between 42-44 weeks!

A baby that is breech is not an automatic dangerous situation. Breech babies do have different risk factors and those should be discussed with your care provider, so you can make an informed decision on what is best for your baby and birth, with their support.

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{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

katrina October 1, 2012 at 6:00 am

Great article! My 2nd baby turned breech towards the end of my pregnancy which gave me a huge scare… (I was determined to go natural) The good news is I managed to get her to turn around (and had a fast natural drug free birth) through the power of visualisation/ meditation, tuning in and talking to my baby daily. I share my story (as well as many other inspiring birth stories!) in my new book A Modern Woman’s Guide to a Natural Empowering Birth.

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Lisa November 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Many great and moving stories here. One thing I’d like to say is that there is so much pressure on women to have the “perfect” birth. And sometimes there is the idea that having a c-section, or epidural makes the woman a failure. The birth of your baby is only the beginning. Motherhood is not all about the birth. It’s what comes after that that’s most important.

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mallie shirk January 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Great article! I just gave birth to twin girls at home in the water and both breech. If you have the right people with you it can be done safely. I had two previous natural births to bigger babies so we were confodent my body knew what to do and it did! My labor was a little over 2 hrs. Long, girls were 11 minutes apart. I didn’t even tear! Don’t let Breech scare you…:)

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David Hayes January 25, 2013 at 7:39 am

Yes you did Mallie. Smooth as silk. That was wonderfully without fear!

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Angela April 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

I’m almost 39wks and at my apt. on Mon. found out my baby is breech. This is the second time the baby has flipped. I need some support because I am crushed and beside myself. I was really hoping for an unmedicated natural delivery this time w/#2 and now it’s looking more & more like a c-section will happen. I’ve tried chiroractic adjustments twice now (had one yesterday after finding out the baby was breech again & earlier in my pregnancy), warm compress on my pelvic area & cold up by my ribs, and some of the techniques (breech tilt, forward-leaning inversion) from spinningbabies.com. Not sure if there is anything else I can do. After doing all this repeatedly, I think she’s still breech. I’m really upset about this news.

I went through with the ECV procedure Wednesday morning at the hospital, but baby would turn about half-way and then turn back-stubborn. As of now, baby is still in the breech position. I have since had another chiropractor appointment and have two additional ones scheduled for Friday and Monday (using the Webster technique)before my obgyn appointment on Tuesday. I have also went swimming and did handstands in the water, but no success. I’m going to look into calling a local, certified acupuncturist that practices moxibustion to see if that will help baby flip into position again.

Depending on baby’s position Tuesday will determine whether or not a c-section will be planned for later next week. I’m not giving up hope. I’m going to continue doing the breech tilt position and the forward-leaning inversion poses that I’ve read about and been doing from spinningbabies.com and hope baby turns on it own and I go into labor naturally. I question whether there was something I could have done differently this time around since I didn’t have this issue with #1.

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Shannon Reyes May 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I hate to say it, but I was one of those uneducated mothers and I think overall, I was perhaps very ignorant about all these small details. Never once did the possibility of a breech birth occur to me! I am glad to say that I had a nice and easy birth (I was induced at 41.5 weeks because the practice/hospital I used had a practice of not scheduling any deliveries around the Christmas holidays; I was in labor for 29 hours before my daughter arrived–sheesh!) I was only 23 and had NO idea of all the problems that could have gone on!

It’s really nice to read about other birth experiences. I did some further research on things that a woman could do to help turn her baby from the breech position, and looking back, it’s possible that my daughter could have been breech but because unconsciously I already was doing some of the suggestions that others have made to help (Yoga, inversion, daily walking, etc). I was taking a full load of college classes at the time and one of the classes I had was speed walking. Ha! At the beginning of the semester, I started out walking very fast and with a lot of energy, and by the end, when I was two weeks away from my due date, I was waddling like a penguin! I’m sure that the fast-pace walking was good, as well as on some of the days, my instructor allowed me to take it easy and so I did a lot of yoga. Some of the stretches that I did were suggested in helping to balance the uterus out so help make room for the baby’s head. How ironic that I was already doing these!

Thank you for writing this article, because it’s sure educating me now so that when we have our next one, I will know more! :)

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Ashley June 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm

My son was breach. I’d planned a home water birth but things went south quickly because he’d turned between appointments and my head midwife was gone for the first time in 8 years. Had he been head down, he still would have been born at home but my secondary midwife wasn’t licensed to do specialized births. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctor really tried to push a C-section but I knew in my heart my son was fine. He was born breach, I did it with out drugs because I am strong. If I had felt the need, I would have had a csection but I knew it wasn’t needed. My new OB said that we would more closely monitor me this time around and turn baby before it came to that point.

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Judy Arnel June 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm

my son was breach all the way through, when I was in bed at 5 months he sat straight up with his head poking out my stomach… I said this kid is a ceasar waiting to happen, and laughed… then he went back downstill breach. After 12 hours of labour they exrayed me – the mid wife said please have this baby before I leave tonight, I have never seen a baby born in this position. He got in the beanbag and showed the Frank position, with both arms up over his head as well. Poor baby was probably trying to protect his head from the contractions. After ANOTHER 12 hours they gave me a ceasar. I really thought I was going to die and/or my baby would. He has autism(Aspurgers) and problems feeling his hands and feet, balance and other things too.. I wish I had demanded they ceasar me earlier…. just maybe he would not have some of his problems if I had. The night midwife even threw me out of the labour ward and left me alone all night, cause I was not really in labour and they are going to ceasar you in the morning. Lazy bitch just wanted one less person to keep an eye on. She put me back in the ward and because she did my husband was not even allowed to sit with me. WORST 10 hours in my life. to that point. Child 1 – easy, slept through the birth. #2 – cervical incompetence, High forceps prem delivery, #3 – ceasar #4 – ruptured ectopic with 10 hours sergery to save my life. #5 the cord was around her neck from when she spun around when they put electrode sensors on her scalp to keep an eye on her stress levels…. Having children is a wonder, but not always wonderfull. Wouldn’t trade any of them.

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Paula Palmer June 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm

My third baby was my first homebirth, a 41-weeker, and a surprise frank breech one at that. I love that you mention trusting your body. That is exactly what happens. You have faith. Thanks for this! :)

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sharla July 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

Thank you. I am right at 38 weeks and just found out baby is in breeched position. My midwives would like to have an inversion later this week, but I feel I want to wait. Trusting body and baby at this point. :)

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megan August 27, 2013 at 10:15 am

My 4th child was a surprise breech. I am very glad we did not know ahead of time bc I’m sure they would have forced a c-section. My first 3 births were unmedicated and with midwives. With this baby we had moved and the the closest midwife was 5 hours away so I had no option but to go with a doctor. I remember telling my husband it felt like a head was in my ribs when I was used to feeling feet. My doctor, however, reassured me the baby was head down just by feeling my belly. Then when I was in labor he started to “crown” and the nurse told me she did not see a head but a scrotum. She immediately called in the Dr and I was panicking and quickly asked if I would have to have a c-section. She told me my baby was coming now and there wasn’t time. So I got to deliver him unmedicated and vaginally. I am now pregnant with number 5 and have been having some of the same feelings, knot in my ribs and lots of kicking in my bottom, that I had with my last baby. I’m with a midwife but they won’t deliver a known breech so I’m not going to voice my concerns as I know I can deliver a breech just fine. And I am confident my midwives can handle a surprise breech if need be.

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Holly September 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm

I’m 36 weeks now and my baby has been breech the entire time thus far. I have to admit I’m worried and scared. My husband is military and often gone even for short periods of time like a couple 2-3 days & then back home again. I have three children already and family close for support or help with the other three children. I’m very anxious about a breech baby because I’ve been high risk the entire time after having lost 4 babies already-2 early in pregnancy, 1 halfway through, and another one at 8.5 months while delivering that one’s twin at 35.5 weeks (my first pregnancy). They plan to try to turn the baby this week sometime. I’m worried because my fluid levels are low and have been all along but also because as much as I would love to continue to carry and let things happen naturally, my baby is falling off the growth charts. My placenta is as big as the baby which isn’t normal and she’s very small. I have RA so I’m quite concerned about having a breech baby and the possible damage to my hips. I need to be able to take care of all my children. I have so many concerns and I have prayed. I feel like my concerns aren’t allowing my heart hear God.

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Annie Paquet September 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I am desesperate. :( I had my first 2 kids by cesarean because they were both breech… My second had his cord around his neck, and was presenting feet first. I really want to experience a natural birth. Both times labor started on it’s own so at least that’s one thing… C-sections have been forced on me, and I do not want a 3rd one to happen again! Is there still hope for a vbac? Does this mean my 3rd one will be breech as well?

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Kate D November 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

I am sure you already know that after 2 c/s most providers will recommend a repeat c/s because you are at an increased risk of rupturing your uterus at your old incision site (this is a dangerous and scary complication that can hurt you or your baby if it goes unnoticed for any length of time). Good luck!

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Holly C November 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

FANTASTIC article!!!! Thank you so much!!! Do you happen to have any articles to reference, or personal thoughts on WHY babies turn breech (i.e. baby knows what’s best)? Id love to read into this more. Still coping with my traumatic homebirth turned cesarean :-(

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erika boland November 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Annie of course there is till hope of a VBAC you just have to fight for it! You may have to change doctors. You may have to change hospitals! You must find the right support people. Trust yourself!

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