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Breech position and birth

Caesarean birth

If you are late in your pregnancy and labour has not started, an elective caesarean is likely.

This is particularly recommended if it is your first baby. The caesarean will generally be done at 39 weeks.

If you go into labour before this, an emergency or urgent caesarean is likely to be recommended.

It may not be recommended if:

  • the labour is well advanced
  • doctors are confident a vaginal birth will be safe

Related topic

Caesarean birth

Undiagnosed breech

Sometimes late in pregnancy the baby’s position changes from head-first to bottom-first (breech). This means a woman can go into labour with the baby in the breech position.

In this uncommon situation, you will not be aware that your baby is in the breech position. Your obstetrician and midwife will notice this when they are examining you during your labour.

The doctors will scan you to confirm that the baby’s bottom is coming first. They will assess the situation to decide whether to do a caesarean or let the labour continue.

They may advise allowing the labour to proceed if:

  • you have had an easy birth before
  • there are no major concerns

Otherwise they will recommend a caesarean section.

Vaginal birth

Sometimes a vaginal birth is possible. You may be able to have a vaginal birth if:

  • this is not your first pregnancy
  • your baby is coming before 37 weeks
  • there are facilities at your hospital for an emergency caesarean birth should that be necessary
  • the hospital has enough doctors who are skilled and experienced in vaginal breech delivery

Vaginal breech birth is relatively common in twins where the second baby is in the breech position. If the first twin is a breech, the doctors will usually recommend a caesarean section.

Vaginal breech birth is more complicated than other types of vaginal birth. This option will not be suitable for all women.

The biggest concern is that the baby’s head could get stuck in the pelvis. Serious injury to the baby could occur as a result.

Related topics

Staying active and upright positions during labour

Contractions and other signs of labour

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 14/11/2018
next review due: 14/11/2021