There's nothing more exciting than those last few weeks of pregnancy, when you know your baby is on the way out. Hopefully with her head down. But it doesn't always happen that way. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 3 to 4 percent of full-term births present as breech (butt or feet down) as late as three to four weeks before the due date, often for reasons unknown.
There's still time for things to turn around, but it's a good idea to know what to expect if your baby is in breech position during those last few weeks. Below, NYC OB-GYN Dr. Meredith Halpern gives us our options and preps us for the possible delivery of a breech baby.
35 weeks: If your doctor or midwife determines that your baby is still breech at this point in your pregnancy, you may need to acknowledge a possible change in birthing plans. But, there’s still hope for a turnaround; Halpern encourages the exploration of medical alternatives that some argue may help turn your baby, from certain yoga positions to acupuncture. But it may also be the time to “wrap your head around an elective cesarean delivery,” she says, with enough time left in your pregnancy to emotionally adapt to the possibility of your new reality.
37 weeks: Once your baby is full-term, some doctors will attempt an External Cephalic Version (ECV), a manual movement to get a breech baby into a head-down position. Performed in the safety of a hospital, an ECV can be uncomfortable, and in some cases, end in an emergency C-section if the baby shows signs of distress. “If the baby is going to turn, it will usually turn right away,” Halpern says, and that happens in more than 50 percent of ECV procedures. “But unfortunately, the baby can always turn breech again two days later.”
39-40 weeks: If your baby remains in a head-up position as your due date draws near, most doctors will advocate for an elective C-section to reduce risks associated with breech delivery. “I always try to accommodate a patient’s wishes for her chosen birth experience, but the baby and mother’s health is the most important factor in how we get the baby out,” says Halpern. Breech delivery exceptions, she says, could be if a severely premature baby is already on its way out feet-down or if a second of twins is headed out breech.