How do I know that my baby is breech?
By 32 weeks, most babies are in the head down position. However, about 1 in every 25 full-term babies is in a breech position. There have been cases where some obstetricians and mothers didn’t know the baby was in a breech position until even mid-labor.
Part of the movement towards empowering soon-to-be mothers about their bodies and what happens during pregnancy and child birth is to give them tools for making an informed decision about their health and the health of their baby. In this case, it is good to learn what signs to look for to find out if your baby is in the head-down position or a breech position, which has coined the name in midwifery circles as “belly mapping”.
Using Ultrasound to Determine the Baby’s Position
There are generally two ways to tell if a baby is in a breech position: palpation and ultrasound.
Ultrasounds are useful in determining:
- Lie of the baby (which position he/she is in)
- Location of the placenta
- Head flexion (how much and at what angle the neck is bent)
These details are helpful in particular if the mother wishes a vaginal delivery. It can help the mother, doctor and/or midwife decide if vaginal delivery is possible and/or safe for both mother and child. While the prevailing philosophy in the United States is that c-section is preferable in the vast majority of breech presentations, the trend in Europe is that c-sections are not always needed or necessary, and shouldn’t be automatically assumed when a baby is breech.
Using Palpation to Determine Baby Position
As your pregnancy progresses, it becomes increasingly obvious and necessary to learn where your baby is positioned. Things to watch for include:
- feet kick stronger than hands, so make a note where you feel the baby’s feet
- the baby’s head will feel like a ball. If your baby has already “dropped”, you may not be able to locate his/her head because it’s already engaged in the pelvic bone.
- feeling kicks or something rather firm, but not necessarily solid and round around the pelvic bone means it is likely that your baby is in a breech position.
While palpation isn’t as precise as ultrasound, a skilled doctor or midwife will be able to tell, and usually a mother knows just by the location of the kicks. This is what’s called “belly mapping”. A mother kind of does this on her own anyway, but a recent practice is actually drawing these movements on paper (see the SpinningBabies.com link sourced below for more details about that).
And, again, it is important to remember that a breech position isn’t a reason to panic and worry. Only a relatively small number of babies are not head down at delivery time. Many women tell stories, particularly in subsequent pregnancies, that their babies didn’t turn until just before labor started. In the meantime, there are strategies that can help turn a baby, passed down from centuries of midwifery, and new ways of pain and labor management to keep the mother active and make vaginal births possible. Each pregnancy, mother and baby is different, and the best course of action should be decided based on what will work best for mother and baby.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Breech Baby During Pregnancy. WhattoExpect.com. Web. Apr 26, 2012.
Breech Births. American Pregnancy Association. Web. Apr 26, 2012.
Belly Mapping breech. SpinningBabies.com. Web. Apr 26, 2012.