How Does a Baby Become Breech?

When a baby is getting ready to be born, she moves into what is known as the "vertex position."  In this position, her head is down, facing into the birth canal.  If a baby is not head down, she is said to be in a "breech position."  There are three possible types of breech positions.  The first, Frank Breech, is when the buttocks is facing down and the legs face up.  In a Complete Breech, the baby will be sitting cross-legged.  In a Footling Breech, one or both of the feet are down.  Around 5% of babies are born breech.  When a baby is breach, there is a risk of collapsing the umbilical cord.  This raises the death rate to four times that of babies in the vertex position.

It is not known for certain what causes a baby to become breech.  In some cases, it may have to do with the shape and size of the woman’s body or her pelvic region.  In most cases, however, it is more likely that the positioning of the baby in relationship to the umbilical cord prevents the baby from turning a certain way.  Once a baby passes the 37th week of pregnancy, it becomes increasingly difficult to move, as he becomes more and more cramped in the womb.  Still, it is not entirely uncommon for a baby who is breech at 37 weeks of pregnancy to shift to the vertex position by the 40th week of pregnancy.

There are some techniques that a woman might use to try to encourage her baby to move into the vertex position.  Sometimes, lying with your hips higher than your head may help.  In other cases, women have tried placing headphones or a flashlight near the pubic bone.  While there is not research to suggest that any of these techniques will work, they aren’t harmful and may be worth a try.

There is also a medical way to turn a baby breach.  This procedure is known as an external cephalic version, or simply an external version.  In this procedure, your health care provider may push on your baby until he gets into the correct position.



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