Third Trimester

Q&A: Shift Breech Baby Before Birth?

I’m at 36 weeks, and just found out my baby is breech. Can this change before delivery?

Yes. Baby will move around in your womb right up until delivery, so it’s possible that a shift to the head-down position will occur naturally.

Your doc also may attempt to turn your baby through “version.” This involves pushing or lifting your abdomen with his hands (and possibly the help of another person) to help baby roll forward or backward into the head-down position. Before the version, you’ll have an ultrasound to determine position of baby and the placenta, and the amount of amniotic fluid. Baby’s heart rate will be taken before and after, and ultrasound may be used during the turning for additional guidance. You also maybe given medication to relax your uterus and ease the turning.

Version isn’t usually attempted until after 36 weeks, because baby is still likely to change position before that. (And even after a successful version, baby may move back into the breech position.) But, since baby is growing right up until birth, version becomes more difficult as due date approaches because of the decreasing space in your womb. Sounds like an impossible equation, we know… but though there’s certainly no guarantee the version will work, more than half of all attempts are successful.

Though complications with version are unusual (meaning, don’t let the following scare you too much!), they can include premature membrane rupture, heart rate problems, placental abruption or preterm labor. For this reason, the procedure will likely take place near a delivery room, where baby can quickly be delivered by cesarean section if necessary.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists