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HealthInfo Canterbury

Breech presentation

What is breech?

Breech means that the baby is lying with their bottom, knees or feet first, rather than being head down. It is very common for babies to be lying in the breech position in the second trimester but most babies turn on their own. By 37 weeks, only about three or four out of every 100 babies (3 to 4%) are still breech. If your lead maternity carer (LMC) suspects that your baby is breech during the third trimester they may recommend a scan to check.

Turning the baby

Breech baby illustrationBecause it is more straightforward to give birth to a baby who is head first, women who have a breech baby at 36 to 37 weeks may be offered a procedure called external cephalic version (ECV). During ECV an obstetrician turns the baby from the outside by using gentle pressure on your abdomen. These illustrations show how this is done. About half of all ECVs are successful in turning the baby. You can find out more about ECV through this leaflet from Canterbury DHB.

Moxibustion is another way to encourage the baby to turn. It is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that uses tightly bound herbs, or moxa, by burning them close to acupuncture points on the skin. It is painless. Moxibustion may help turn some breech babies when it is combined with either acupuncture or postural techniques. Ask your care provider for more information.

Choices for birth

If your baby remains breech at the end of your pregnancy, your LMC will discuss options for birth with you and it will be recommended that you have a consultation with an obstetrician to decide whether to plan for a vaginal breech birth or a caesarean section.

Written by midwife liaison, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated July 2016.

Page reference: 84601

Review key: HIBRE-84601