By 8 months, the baby in the womb positions itself as it does not have much place to move about. Most babies position themselves head-down otherwise known as cephalic position during this time. In very few cases the baby positions itself feet-down or in breech presentation.
By the beginning of the third trimester, the medical practitioner will physically feel the mother's abdomen and will be able to tell the positioning of the baby. This is usually done using Leopold's maneuver. Location of the heart beat, position of the baby's bottom and head helps the doctor determine the position of the baby. About 25% babies are positioned breech during this time but they turn to normal position on their own within the next couple of months.
When the mother is approaching full term and the baby is still positioned breech, the medical practitioner may conduct a pelvic examination or an ultrasound to confirm the positioning of the baby. At 37 weeks about 3-4% babies are in breech position. Even after 37 weeks if the baby is presenting breech position then it might not turn on its own to the cephalic position. In general breech babies are delivered through a cesarean section. Generally normal delivery is not advised for a breech position baby when:
Frank breech: Bottom first with feet up near the head (feet straight up).
Complete breech: Bottom first with legs crossed in Indian style.
Footling breech (incomplete breech: One or both feet are positioned to come out first.
Stargazers: When the baby is in any one of the above mentioned positions but is extending its neck completely as though it is watching a star it is called as stargazer. Babies positioned like this are usually delivered using c-section.
Helping baby from breech to cephalic
ECV: External Cephalic Version is a procedure wherein pressure is applied to the mother's abdomen for manual manipulation of the baby's position. The pressure helps the baby take a head-down position. ECV has its own limitations and many a times the baby moves back to the breech position. Women with pregnancy complications like low amniotic acid, bleeding and twins cannot undergo this procedure.
Tilt position: The Breech Tilt inversion technique is used to help a breech baby flip to a head-down position. The mother is asked to lie on a couch placing her feet up on an ironing board. The head is positioned down while the feet are placed up. 20 minutes a day is the recommended duration. This exercise needs to be done only after approval from the authorized medical personnel or midwife.
Chances of having a breech baby
A mother who has had one or more of the following conditions may have a breech baby: multiple pregnancies, excessive amniotic fluid, baby having anomalies, placenta lying low, uterus anomalies and Placenta previa.
Abnormal or difficult childbirth or labor is termed as dystocia. Cervical dystocia is a condition where the cervix fails to dilate during labor. Shoulder dystocia is the condition where the shoulder gets stuck in pelvis while delivering the child. Dystocia is noticed just before or during the delivery. Depending on how the baby is presenting itself for delivery cephalic (head comes out first) or breech the doctor decides the type of delivery.
Causes of dystocia
Dystocia can occur due to one or more factors, both maternal and fetal:
Physical examination of the mother is done and labor progress is charted on a labor curve. Uterine contraction patterns are reviewed using an intrauterine pressure catheter. Oxytocin is used to improve contractions when they are inadequate. Forceps are used often when there is abnormal fetal positioning.
Named after gynecologist Christian Gerhard Leopold, Leopold maneuver is used to determine the position, presentation and engagement of the fetus within the mother's womb. This technique may be used to determine the fetal weight too. It is usually performed by a qualified doctor. The maneuvers include four different moves or actions that are very important and critical as each of them helps determine the position of the fetus. Leopold maneuver is preferably performed after 24 weeks of gestation when the fetal line can be palpitated. Though this maneuver cannot be equated to an ultrasound, it can be useful if the person performing the technique is competent enough to make the right assessment.
Leopold's maneuver helps determine
The mother is placed in the dorsal recumbent position, wherein the supine with the knees is flexed to relax the abdomen. The hands are usually rubbed together so that they don't get cold, as cold hands may lead to uterine contractions. Finger should not be used for palpation. Palms are used for palpation.
The four maneuvers
First maneuver fundal grip: Helps in determining the presentation and to understand the fetal part that is lying in the fundus. Both the hands are used to find the fetal part that is lying in the fundus.
Second maneuver Umbilical grip: Helps determine the spine of the fetus and helps determine the position of the baby. One hand is placed to steady the uterus while the other is moved slightly in circular motion from the top to the lower segment of the uterus to feel the back of the baby. Gentle yet deep pressure is used.
Third maneuver Pawlik's grip: Determines the engagement of the presenting body. The thumb and finger is used to grasp the lower portion of the abdomen and slight movements are made from side to side by pressing lightly.
Fourth maneuver Pelvic grip: Determines the degree of flexion of the fetal head. Using both hands, palpate fetal head pressing downward about 2 inches above the inguinal ligament.
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Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: January 27, 2023