Breech position

A fetus with the feet, buttocks, or legs pointing down toward the cervix is said to be in breech position. Before birth, most breech fetuses change position so that the head points downward, but some breech fetuses stay in breech position late into the third trimester (the last part of pregnancy).

  • Thefrank breech position occurs when the baby's buttocks are in place to come out first during delivery. The legs extend straight up in front of the body, with the feet near the head. This is the most common type of breech position.
  • A complete breech position occurs when the baby's buttocks are down near the birth canal and the legs are folded at the knees, so the feet are close to the buttocks.
  • The footling breech position occurs when one leg (single footling) or both legs (double footling) are stretched out below the buttocks. One or both of the baby's legs would come out first during a vaginal delivery. A vaginal delivery is never recommended for a baby in the footling breech position.

A medical procedure called external cephalic version can sometimes successfully turn a breech fetus to head-down position before delivery. A cesarean section is recommended for most breech deliveries.

Last Updated: April 28, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Joy Melnikow, MD, MPH - Family Medicine & William Gilbert, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

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