The American Pregnancy Association estimates that breech births happen once in every 25 full-term births.
Conventional wisdom has held that these are abnormal births.
Either the mother’s natural shape is preventing the baby from turning head down (4), or something is medically wrong or undeveloped in the baby (3).
Breech Birthing Options
The traditional practice for North American, British and Australian doctors for many generations has been to deliver all breech babies via cesarean section. (3, 5, 6)
Many obstetric care providers in the United States won’t even consider a vaginal delivery as an option. (1)
Increasingly, moms-to-be are requesting a vaginal breech delivery. A vaginal delivery is possible if the baby is full-term, not too big and does not show any sign of distress, and if labor is progressing. (2, 3)
The key to a successful vaginal breech delivery is positioning and that means moving from the traditional hospital on the back (lithotomy) and semi-sitting position, and onto all fours.
The all-fours position more easily allows the mother’s body to do what it needs to do, and the baby to make the cardinal movements it needs to make. (2, 4, 6)
To read more about how a vaginal breech delivery works, see source #6 below, along with photos.
Vaginal breech births should not be induced and should be hands-off, avoiding extraction methods. (2, 6). Just left alone, the woman’s body and baby will do what they’re made to do in a good number cases.
If the pregnancy has progressed normally and without any concerns for mother or baby, then a cesarean delivery should be reserved for those cases where labor doesn’t progress -– if in the second stage of labor the buttocks or feet do not come down. (2)
Choosing Vaginal Delivery for a Breech Birth
Sometimes, life can feel like you’re swimming uphill. There are a lot of traditionally held views and practices. Choosing to deliver or even consider a vaginal delivery for a breech baby can go against the grain.
The challenge is to find an obstetrician or midwife who’s experienced with it and supportive of the decision.