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RCOG statement: New study finds caesarean ‘safest’ for breech delivery

News 29 July 2015

A study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) today examines the risks of vaginal breech delivery on the health of a baby.

Results of this study, which used a sample size of 258,953 women, suggest that the overall perinatal mortality in the planned vaginal delivery and planned caesarean section group for a term breech baby were 253 (0.3%) and 79 (0.05%) respectively.

These results were lower than the perinatal mortality rates associated with a vaginal delivery where the baby was positioned head first in a WHO study which found the risk of fetal and neonatal deaths to be 0.39 and 0.38%, respectively.

Commenting on the study, Professor Alan Cameron, Vice President of Clinical Quality for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:

“This is a very interesting study which uses all of the existing data on breech delivery to determine the absolute risks of vaginal breech birth to the baby. The results show that the overall risks of babies dying or suffering complications during planned vaginal and planned caesarean deliveries were about 1 in 300 and 1 in 2000.

“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists currently recommends that caesarean delivery is the safest mode of delivery for the baby when in a breech position.

“However, there are benefits and risks associated with both caesarean delivery and vaginal breech birth and women are encouraged to discuss and weigh up the options with their obstetrician so they can choose the best plan for themselves and their baby.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


Berhan Y, Haileamlak A. The risks of planned vaginal breech delivery versus planned caesarean section for term breech birth: A meta-analysis including observational studies. BJOG 2015: DOI; 10.1111/1471-0528.13524