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Management of Breech Presentation (Green-top Guideline No. 20b)

Summary: The aim of this guideline is to aid decision making regarding the route of delivery and choice of various techniques used during delivery. It does not include antenatal or postnatal care. Information regarding external cephalic version is the topic of the separate Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Green-top Guideline No. 20a, External Cephalic Version and Reducing the Incidence of Term Breech Presentation.

Breech presentation occurs in 3–4% of term deliveries and is more common in preterm deliveries and nulliparous women. Breech presentation is associated with uterine and congenital abnormalities, and has a significant recurrence risk. Term babies presenting by the breech have worse outcomes than cephalic presenting babies, irrespective of the mode of delivery.

A large reduction in the incidence of planned vaginal breech birth followed publication of the Term Breech Trial. Nevertheless, due to various circumstances vaginal breech births will continue. Lack of experience has led to a loss of skills essential for these deliveries. Conversely, caesarean section can has serious long-term consequences.

COVID disclaimer: This guideline was developed as part of the regular updates to programme of Green-top Guidelines, as outlined in our document Developing a Green-top Guideline: Guidance for developers, and prior to the emergence of COVID-19.

Version history: This is the fourth edition of this guideline.

Please note that the RCOG Guidelines Committee regularly assesses the need to update the information provided in this publication. Further information on this review is available on request.

Developer declaration of interests:

Mr M Griffiths is a member of Doctors for a Woman's right to Choose on Abortion. He is an unpaid member of a Quality Standards Advisory Committee at NICE, for which he does receive expenses for related travel, accommodation and meals.

Mr LWM Impey is Director of Oxford Fetal Medicine Ltd. and a member of the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He also holds patents related to ultrasound processing, which are of no relevance to the Breech guidelines.

Professor DJ Murphy provides medicolegal expert opinions in Scotland and Ireland for which she is remunerated.

Dr LK Penna: None declared.

This page was last reviewed 16 March 2017.