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Diseases & Conditions

Fetal Positions for Birth

(Also Called 'Fetal Positions for Birth - Health Aspects')

The position of your baby in your uterus is called the presentation of the fetus. Your health care provider will carefully assess your baby’s position throughout the last month of your pregnancy to make sure your baby is in the correct position for birth.

Your baby moves into position as your body prepares for delivery. In the weeks before your due date, your baby might drop lower in the uterus.

Most common position for birth

Ideally for labor, the baby is positioned head-down, facing the mother’s back, with the chin tucked to its chest and the back of the head ready to enter the pelvis. This is called cephalic presentation. Most babies settle into this position within the 32nd and 36th weeks of pregnancy.

Other positions

Some fetal positions can cause problems for both mother and baby. In some cases, a cesarean delivery might be the safest option for both mother and baby. However, your health care provider might try to turn the baby by applying his or her hands to your abdomen and gently, with ultrasound guidance, trying to shift the baby to the head-down position. This is called external cephalic version. This technique requires experience and should only be done in the hospital setting where your baby can be monitored carefully in case complications arise.

Finally, it is possible that your baby can turn and change its position before delivery.

Occiput or cephalic posterior

Sometimes the baby is positioned head down as it should be, but other times it is facing the mother’s abdomen. With the head in this position, the baby is looking at the ceiling. This increases the chance of painful and prolonged delivery.

Frank breech

In a frank breech, the baby’s buttocks lead the way into the birth canal. The hips are flexed, the knees extended. This increases the chance of forming an umbilical cord loop that could precede the head through the cervix and cause injury to the baby if delivered vaginally.

Complete breech

The baby is positioned with the buttocks first; both the hips and the knees are flexed. Like other breech presentations, this position increases the risk of forming an umbilical cord loop that could precede the head through the cervix and cause injury to the baby if delivered vaginally.

Transverse lie

The baby lies crosswise in the uterus, making it likely that the shoulder will enter the pelvis first. Most babies in this position are delivered by cesarean.

Footling breech

Sometimes, one or both of the baby’s feet are pointed down toward the birth canal. This increases the chances of the umbilical cord slithering down into the mouth of the womb, cutting off blood supply to the baby.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/28/2010...#9677