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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Breech presentation

Whakawhānautanga whakaaturanga kumu

Breech means that your pēpi (baby) is lying with their bottom, knees or feet first, rather than being head down.

It's very common for pēpi (babies) to be lying in the breech position in the second trimester but most pēpi turn on their own. By 37 weeks, only about three or four out of every 100 pēpi (3 to 4%) are still breech. If your midwife or LMC suspects that your pēpi is breech during the third trimester, they may recommend a scan to check.

Turning your pēpi

Because it's more straightforward to give birth to a pēpi baby who is head first, women who have a breech pēpi 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 pēpi 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 pēpi.

Breech Baby

You can find out more about ECV through this leaflet.

Moxibustion is another way to encourage the pēpi 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 pēpi babies when it's combined with either acupuncture or postural techniques. Ask your care provider for more information.

Choices for birth

If your pēpi 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 December 2021.


Page reference: 84601

Review key: HIPRC-41255