Why is my Baby Breech?
Actually, most babies are in a breech (that is, not head down) position until later in the second trimester. Between five and seven months, the head becomes heavy enough that the baby will turn. Up until 24-26 weeks, most babies lie in the transverse position or sideways. Babies may be breech until 29 weeks, and then by 30-32 weeks most babies will be head down. “Breech births occur in approximately 1 out of 25 full-term births.” (American Pregnancy Association)
Still, there are some babies that don’t turn at all and will, in that case, usually present either feet first (footling position) or buttocks first (complete, if the knees are bent like a cannonball; frank, if the legs are straight in a “pike” position). The question remains, why do some babies not turn?
Clearly, given the apparent percentage of incidence, a breech presentation is relatively common. A small percentage of breech births can be attributed to something developmentally wrong with the baby.The vast majority of babies are born healthy and with normal Apgar tests.
The likelihood of a breech birth increases with preterm babies as they may be born before they’ve had a chance to turn. But, assuming that we’re talking about full-term babies, let’s look at some other contributing factors.
The shape of the mother
There are several theories as to why some babies never turn, and they center around the mother’s physiology — her natural body shape.
While most women have a symmetrical uterus, many other women do not. Every woman’s shape is uniquely different depending on pelvic alignment and the length and strength of the ligaments in the area.
Some, for example, may have a septum or center membrane that essentially divides the uterus into two “rooms”, as opposed to one single room. In this instance, as the baby grows larger in a smaller space, there is no room for the baby to turn.
Some women have a heart-shaped uterus (at the top) or a bicornate uterus where a breech position may be more likely.
Some women’s pelvic joints have a twist (torsion) which can pull the ligaments supporting the womb off-balance. If this happens in the lower portion of the uterus, the head doesn’t fit in a down position. Fetal position is very much dictated by the tone of the supporting ligaments, even in a symmetrical uterus.
Still, another potential contributing factor to a breech presentation is a lack of or too much amniotic fluid. In the case of not enough, the baby does not have enough space to turn head down. If there is too much amniotic fluid, there is too much room for the baby to move around in.
There is also the issue of the position of the placenta which may get in the way of a head down position.
Big babies are also a contributing factor because usually the bigger the baby, the less room there is for the baby to turn. However, smaller than average babies, particularly in multiple births, may present in a breech position as well, since there is less room for him/her to move around.
Many American obstetricians still hold that anything other than a symmetrical uterus is considered abnormal. In Europe and countries outside the United States (Australia, etc.), the view is turning towards the concept that, for these women, this is normal. It may be different than the other 24 out of 25 women, but it is normal for them. We will look at birthing a breech baby in another article — for that’s another discussion entirely.
Uterine fibroids and cysts which change the internal shape, size and space of the uterus can also keep a baby from flipping on his/her own.
Strategies for encouraging head down position
While some babies are incredibly stubborn and insist on being born as they are, there are ways for mothers to try to ensure that their bodies provide the space needed for their babies to turn such as:
- Increase water intake and herbal teas to increase amniotic fluid (in the case of low amniotic fluid)
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Learn and complete exercises to tone and loosen your uterine ligaments
- Practice a forward-leaning inversion technique
“Some babies may flip late in pregnancy. This may be because previously too tight womb and uterine ligaments are relaxing better with the hormones of late pregnancy and give the baby room to flip.” (SpinningBabies.com)
It’s important to remember to not panic if your baby is in a breech position. As we gain more and more understanding about how a woman’s body works during pregnancy and labor and as we grow to respect and work with that, breech babies can be born safely.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Breech Births. American Pregnancy Association. Web. Apr 26, 2012.
About Breech. SpinningBabies.com. Web. Apr 26,2012.
Breech Position and Breech Birth. Healthwise. Web. Apr 26, 2012.