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Turning a breech baby in the womb

Published: 01/02/2008

Breech means that your baby is lying bottom first or feet first in the womb (uterus) instead of in the usual head-first position. In early pregnancy breech is very common. As pregnancy continues, a baby usually turns by itself into the head first position. Between 37 and 42 weeks (term), most babies are lying head first, ready to be born.

Vaginal breech birth is more complicated than normal birth. Your obstetrician or midwife may advise trying to turn your baby to a head-first position. This technique is called external cephalic version (ECV). This is when gentle pressure is applied on your abdomen which helps the baby turn a somersault in the womb to lie head first.

This information leaflet covers:

  • What external cepahlic version (ECV) is
  • Benefits of ECV
  • When ECV can be performed
  • How successful ECV is
  • Safety of ECV for you and your baby
  • Whether there's anything else you can do to help your baby turn

This information is based on the RCOG guideline External Cephalic Version (ECV) and Reducing the Incidence of Breech Presentation.

In line with the College process of reviewing all guidance every three years, this information is currently under review. The information in this version is still valid.

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