As you near your due date for delivery, the baby also prepares to come out via the vaginal canal. How the baby is positioned is an important consideration to assist you during childbirth. While the position of the baby, or ‘fetal presentation’ as it is called in medical terms, is more important for vaginal births, it is also relevant to decide whether you would need a C-section or any other assistance during delivery.
When is the baby’s position checked?
Your healthcare provider will check the baby’s position more actively during the third trimester. The baby’s position will also be checked when you are closer to your due date, when your water breaks, and when you are in active labour.
The baby’s position can be checked through an ultrasound. Experienced healthcare professionals can also check the baby’s position through a physical examination or an internal examination.
Can the baby’s position change?
Your baby continues to move around in the womb and you feel her tiny legs kicking. However, as you get closer to your full term, usually the baby takes position. This is a natural instinct of the baby to come out when she is ready. The baby can however change fetal presentation even during labour. So, for example, a baby that is facing up at the beginning of the labour may face down at the time of the actual delivery.
Your healthcare provider or doctor can also attempt the change the position of the baby by externally applying pressure on your belly and nudging the baby to change the position.
Understanding different baby positions
Let’s understand the different positions in which your baby might be.
What is it: Head downwards towards the cervix and face towards your spine
This position is the most common position for vaginal birth. It is also known as the ‘occiput anterior’. It is also the easiest position to give birth naturally.
What is it: Head downwards towards the cervix and face towards your belly
In this position, the baby’s head is near the cervix but it is facing towards your belly. If the baby comes out in this position, she will be born facing upwards. While this position is also fairly suitable for a vaginal birth, babies sometimes rotate at birth and come into the more common anterior position. This position is also known as ‘occiput posterior’.
What is it: Baby’s bottom is near the cervix
In this position, the baby’s head is upwards in the direction of your chest. At the same time, the baby’s legs are extended and curled in a way that her feet are near her face. So, ultimately, the baby’s bottom is near the cervix. This is a fairly difficult position for a vaginal birth. If your baby is in this position, your doctor might suggest a C-section.
What is it: Feet downwards towards the cervix
In this position, the baby’s head is pointing upwards. However, her feet remain closest to the cervix. A breech baby will come out feet-first during vaginal birth. If your baby is in this position, you might feel kicking in your lower abdomen. While it is not impossible to have a natural birth in this position, your doctor would be the best person to advise you in this case.
What is it: Head is upwards with one foot near the cervix and the other foot tucked near the baby’s face
In this position, one of the baby’s knees is bent and her feet are next to the bottom. The other leg is extended and the foot is next to her face. This is again an inconvenient position for birthing and your doctor might recommend a C-section.
Single footling and double footling breech
What is it: One or both feet are pointing downwards and are near the cervix
In a single footling breech, one of the baby’s feet is pointing towards the cervix and in the double footling breech, both the baby’s feet are pointing towards the cervix. Depending on a few other factors, your doctor will recommend the best way to birth in this case.
What is it: The baby is positioned horizontally
In this case, the baby is horizontally positioned in the womb. She could face upwards or downwards towards the cervix. In both cases, natural birth is very difficult and the doctor might recommend a C-section.
What is it: The baby is positioned at an oblique angle
This position is slightly different from the transverse lie and the baby is positioned diagonally in the womb. Both the head and the baby’s bottom are on different sides of your body.
What position is your baby in?
Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you what position your baby is in. While they can attempt to change the position of the baby just before birth, the success of this method is not guaranteed. The fetal presentation is important to determine the best method to deliver the baby. However, remember that the safety of the baby and the mother is important. Hence, trust your healthcare provider to make the best decision for you.
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