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HealthInfo Canterbury

Breech presentation

Breech means that your baby is lying with their bottom, knees or feet first, rather than being head down. It's 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 midwife or LMC suspects that your baby is breech during the third trimester, they may recommend a scan to check.

Turning the baby

Because it's 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 (a doctor who cares for women during pregnancy and childbirth) turns your baby from the outside by using gentle pressure on your tummy (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.

Breech BabyMoxibustion is another way to encourage the baby to turn. It's a traditional Chinese medicine technique that uses tightly bound herbs, or moxa, by burning them close to acupuncture points on the skin. It's painless. Moxibustion may help turn some breech babies when it's 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 midwife or LMC will discuss options for birth with you. They may recommend that you see 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. Last reviewed June 2018.


Page reference: 84601

Review key: HIPRC-41255