As your due date approaches, and if you've had a complication-free pregnancy, the number of common exams you'll experience will increase. They're annoying, sure, but they also ensure your labor and delivery goes as smooth as possible. For example, there are more than a few signs your baby is going to be breech, according to experts, that can help you and your health care team prepare for childbirth as best as humanly possible.
According to The American Pregnancy Association (APA), a breech baby is one who fails to fall into the correct head-first position that prepares the baby to descend into the birth canal and safely out into the world. Breech births occur in approximately 1 out of 25 full-term births, according to the APA, and there are actually three types of breech positions a baby can present. There's a complete breech, where the buttocks is down and legs are folded at the knees, a frank breech, which has the buttocks directed towards the birth canal, legs up in front of the baby's body and their feet near their head, and a footling breech, that involves one or both feet positioned down, making the feet the first body part to be delivered.
It's preferable to try to turn a breech baby between the 32nd and 37th week of pregnancy, according to the APA. So rest assured, your OB-GYN and/or midwife will be studying the position of your baby in order to assess the risks, consider childbirth options, and, in some cases, work to successfully turn your baby. So with that in mind, here are a few early signs that you might be in for a breech birth.
You're Pregnant With Multiples
Carrying multiple babies sometimes means one (or both, or all), may be breech. If you're pregnant with twins, you may deliver one baby vaginally and the other via cesarean if they don't spontaneously turn on their own. Belly Belly reports that 25 percent of babies are in the breech position at 28 weeks gestation, with 7 percent still breech at 35 weeks, and just 1-3 percent at 37 weeks. In other words, if you're carrying multiples and learn of breech positioning before 37 weeks, there's no need to panic, as they typically turn on their own before they're considered "full-term."
A 2004 study published in The Journal of Perinatal Medicine analyzed 130 breech-presenting twins out of 517 total twins delivered over an 11-year period. The study found that 27 percent delivered vaginally and 73 percent via C-section. The findings indicate that, while there appears to be no immediate compromise of neonatal outcome when at least one is breech and the twins are delivered vaginally, it's suggested that cesareans are safer due to possible head entrapment that may lead to death. Basically, one breech birth within multiples increases the chances of complication, so don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about the safest delivery options.
You Have Low Amniotic Fluid
According to The Mayo Clinic, low amniotic fluid, also known as oligohydramnios, is "a condition in which the amniotic fluid measures lower than expected for a baby's gestational age." The amniotic sac and fluids form around 12 days after conception, according to the APA. Amniotic fluid is meant to protect your baby, even helping them breathe in the second trimester. Eight percent of pregnancies resulting in low fluid, and of those 4 percent are officially diagnosed with oligohydramnios.
Low amniotic fluid means your baby has reduced room to move around, or not enough fluid available to hep them move. If you're diagnosed with low fluid and your baby is breech, your doctor may want to discuss the possibility of an induction and/or cesarean to prevent further complications during delivery.
Your Uterus Is Oddly-Shaped
Those with a "heart-shaped" uterus — also known as a bicornuate uterus — are at a higher risk of having a breech baby. This occurs, according to the website SpinningBabies.Com, because your uterus becomes two sections divided by a septum, or wall of tissue. The baby could grow too big to flip to the head-down stance because of the small space of the uterus, therefore resulting in a breech position.
If your doctor determines this is the case early on, you'll be able to utilize early techniques to help turn the baby (the aforementioned site recommends before 30 weeks gestation) such as soft tissue work, forward-leaning inversions, and gentle stretching to help guide your baby where they need to be. Your doctor should be able to assist in which is the best option for you and your future baby.
You've Experienced Premature Births
Jean Goodman, MD, lead investigator and division director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Loyola University Health System and professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, tells Science Daily that fetal position does affect "outcomes for the mother and baby when a woman's water breaks prematurely." In fact, a 2012 study found that out of 569 women whose water broke for varying reasons, all between 24-34 weeks gestation, 111 of them had breech babies. Of those that were breech, 65 percent were also found to have low amniotic fluid levels, too. Although additional research is necessary, a premature labor may indicate a possible breech position, because your baby hasn't had time to turn properly.
You Feel Kicking In Your Lower Belly After 37 Weeks
While the only true way to know your baby's position is via ultrasound, feeling most of any movement or kicking in your lower belly/cervix area can indicate a breech baby. According to BabyCenter UK, more kicking beneath the ribs, or noticing a hard lump that doesn't move much at all, could be a sign that your baby hasn't turned. While not always the case, it's important not to compare your baby's movements, or lack thereof, to any previous pregnancies and/or other women's experiences.
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