8 Causes of Breech Baby Birth Defects & How to Prevent It

8 Causes of Breech Baby Birth Defects

Do breech babies have birth defects? This is a question most parents ask when their own baby is declared to be in the breech position prior to delivery. The optimal position of the baby’s delivery is out the mother’s vagina, headfirst, followed by the rest of the body. However, there are instances when the baby is positioned in such a way that his feet, as opposed to the head, point towards the birth canal. This causes the child to emerge out with its feet or buttocks first. This poses numerous risks to the child’s survival, which might also result in birth defects.

What Are The Different Type Of Breech Birth Presentations?

Breech births may sound like something you do on a beach, but it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. When a baby is in a breech position, it means they’re not coming out head-first like they’re supposed to. So, what are the different types of breech birth presentations caused by breech position types? Glad you asked! Here are the top contenders:

1. Frank breech

This is when the baby’s butt is down and their legs are straight up in front of them, like they’re doing a seated forward bend in yoga. Namaste, baby!

2. Complete breech

In this scenario, the baby’s legs are bent at the knees and their feet are up near their butt. It’s like they’re sitting cross-legged inside the womb. Very zen.

3. Footling breech

This is when one or both of the baby’s feet are pointing downward and will come out first. They’re ready to kick off their first steps right away!

4. Kneeling breech

This is a rare one, but it happens when the baby is in a kneeling position with one or both knees bent. It’s like they’re proposing to the world as they enter it.

What Rate of Breech Babies Have Birth Defects?

Less than 5% of pregnancies end up with breech babies. On trying to understand what percentage of breech babies have birth defects, you will find a lot of statistical data that points towards the probability of such babies having congenital conditions after delivery. In a nutshell, the probability is quite low. the risk may be low but the chances of abnormalities do exist.

Possible Birth Defects Associated With Breech Babies

Breech baby

The causes of breech baby birth defects vary widely. A breech position can cause the oxygen supply to get cut off prior to delivery or cause damage to the physical body of the baby. These causes can result in a range of birth-related issues, some of which have the ability to be fatal for the newborn as well. Some of the major ones are listed below.

1. A Possibility of Fetal Distress

Being in a breech position, a baby can experience fetal distress. The breech position of the baby increases the probability of the umbilical cord being compressed as the baby travels down the birth canal. At times, this can even cause a cord prolapse to occur. When this happens, the oxygen supply that the baby receives through the cord gets interrupted and may remain that way throughout the birth process. Since the brain is heavily dependent on oxygen, not having enough for an increased period of time can hamper its functioning and have long-term consequences. Fetal distress is an emergency complication where a baby is deprived of oxygen. As per studies, fetal distress can also increase the risk of autism in babies.

2. Chances of Down’s Syndrome

A breech baby may also experience delayed growth and development. There is yet a conclusive link to be established between the breech birth and the condition, but there are chances that indicate it. In a normal child, 23 pairs of chromosomes are formed together, from the chromosomes received from both the mother and the father. In certain cases, a child may have an extra chromosome that stays unpaired, which is known to cause this condition. As of today, there doesn’t seem to be any methodology that can prevent Down’s syndrome. As mentioned above, there’s no study to prove that breech birth can lead to Down’s syndrome, but 1 in 10 breech babies has mild to a moderate neurological issue.

3. Problems With Chromosomes

Having an extra chromosome from the usual 46 may lead to Down’s syndrome in the child. However, there are numerous other conditions that can plague the child if the chromosomal structure is not as it should be, or if the pairing is incorrect. A higher risk of heart problem can cause a baby to be in the breech position.

4. Structural Deformities

The headfirst position also has its advantages since it poses the lowest risk of damaging any other parts of the baby’s body. The skull can withstand the initial pressure, whereas other parts of the body are still developing. One such region is the spinal cord, which ends up bearing the highest pressure when the baby is in the breech position. This results in higher chances of deformities in the spinal cord, muscle coordination problems, or further complications in the child’s growth.

5. Hip dysplasia

When a baby is in a breech position for a long time, it can put extra pressure on their hips and lead to hip dysplasia, which is when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly. It’s like they’re doing a little too much hip-hop in the womb.

6. Torticollis

Breech babies are also at a higher risk for torticollis, which is when the neck muscles on one side of the baby’s head are tight and cause their head to tilt to one side. It’s like they’re always trying to look over their shoulder at something.

7. Cerebral palsy

While it’s not a guarantee, breech babies are at a slightly higher risk for cerebral palsy, which is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance. It’s like they’re doing the hokey-pokey with their brain.

8. Umbilical cord problems

Breech babies can also have issues with their umbilical cord, which is the lifeline that connects them to their mom’s placenta. If the cord gets compressed or pinched during delivery, it can cut off the baby’s oxygen supply and lead to serious complications.

There you have it, folks! While having a breech baby doesn’t necessarily mean there will be complications or birth defects, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.

Complications Associated With Breech Babies

When it comes to childbirth, breech babies are the rebels of the womb. Instead of making their grand entrance head-first like most babies, they prefer to come out feet-first or butt-first, causing potential complications for both the baby and the mother. Here are four possible complications to be aware of:

1. Difficult Delivery

Delivering a breech baby is no easy feat. Because their head isn’t coming out first, the birth canal can’t dilate properly, which can lead to a longer and more difficult delivery. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole (but with a baby).

2. Increased Risk of Trauma

Because a breech baby is coming out in an unconventional way, there’s a higher risk of trauma during delivery. The baby’s head, neck, and shoulders can get stuck, leading to injuries like fractures or nerve damage. 

3. Cord Prolapse

In some cases, a breech baby’s umbilical cord can slip through the cervix before the baby, cutting off their oxygen supply. This is called cord prolapse and can be life-threatening for the baby if not handled quickly. It’s like playing a game of tug-of-war with the baby’s lifeline.

4. Long-term Complications

Even if the delivery goes smoothly, there can still be long-term complications associated with breech birth, such as hip dysplasia or developmental delays. 

While having a breech baby doesn’t automatically mean there will be complications, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure a safe and healthy delivery. Remember, just like your little rebel baby, you’re strong and capable of handling whatever comes your way!

How to Prevent Breech Birth Defects

Whether the baby is born in a complete breech position or a frank breech position, birth defects in the baby can be prevented by one and only one solution – changing the baby’s position prior to birth. This can be carried out in different ways.

1. Rotating the Baby Physically

This is a method practised by doctors. The mother is given medication that calms the uterus and doesn’t start untoward contractions. Then, a professional physician gently rotating the baby in the other direction. However, this method is not practised anymore.

2. Chiropractic Techniques

In certain cases, doctors recommend seeing a chiropractor. They tend to have certain techniques that are used on pregnant women, which calm the uterus and create a movement that encourages the baby to shift on his own. However, chiropractic techniques are not followed in India.

3. Stay Active

Believe it or not, staying active during pregnancy can help encourage your baby to get into the optimal head-down position for delivery. Plus, it’s a great excuse to bust out some funky dance moves and show off your baby bump!

4. Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been shown to help turn breech babies in some cases. It’s like giving your baby a little nudge in the right direction (but without actually touching them).

5. Practice Good Posture

Believe it or not, your posture during pregnancy can affect your baby’s position in the womb. Sitting with your back straight and avoiding slouching can help create more space for your baby to move into a head-down position. Plus, good posture is great for your own back and neck health too! It’s like giving your baby a little reminder to “sit up straight” before they’re even born.


1. Are Breech Babies Less Intelligent?

While some may assume that breech babies are less intelligent due to their unconventional birth position, there is actually no evidence to support this claim. In fact, intelligence is determined by a complex mix of genetics, environment, and life experiences, none of which are directly linked to a baby’s position in the womb. So if you’re worried that your breech baby will be any less brilliant than a head-down baby, don’t be! Your little rebel is just as capable of achieving great things and making you proud. Remember, it’s what’s inside their little heads that counts, not how they got out of yours!

2. Does A Breech Baby Have Learning Disabilities?

Many parents worry that their breech baby may have learning disabilities due to their unconventional birth position. However, there is no evidence to suggest that breech birth itself causes learning disabilities. Like with intelligence, learning disabilities are complex and multifactorial, and cannot be directly attributed to a baby’s position in the womb. So, if you’re concerned about your breech baby’s future, don’t be! Your little rebel is just as capable of learning and thriving as any other baby. Remember, they may have entered the world a little differently, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less amazing or capable of greatness. So sit back, relax, and enjoy watching your little one grow and learn in their own unique way.

3. Does A Breech Baby Have Leg Problems?

One common misconception about breech babies is that they are more likely to have leg problems. While it’s true that babies born breech may be at a slightly higher risk for hip dysplasia (a condition where the hip joint is unstable), this can happen to any baby, regardless of their birth position. With proper screening and treatment, however, most cases of hip dysplasia can be successfully managed, and babies can go on to lead happy, healthy lives. So, if you’re worried about your little one’s legs, don’t be! Your healthcare provider will monitor your baby’s hip health and take any necessary steps to ensure they’re growing and developing properly. And who knows, maybe your little rebel will even grow up to be a star soccer player with their fancy footwork!

In a breech baby, a birth defect in the legs or hands, or the development of mental conditions have a higher chance of occurring as compared to other babies. However, medicine has reached a stage where it can combat the problem. By detecting the breech position early and undertaking methods to correct it, you can have a safe and happy pregnancy and a fully developed baby, free of any problems.


Resources and References: Family Doctor

Also Read:

Neural Tube Birth Defect in Infants
Edwards Syndrome in Babies
Gray Baby Syndrome

Previous article «
Next article »