Breech vaginal delivery at or near term

Semin Perinatol. 2003 Feb;27(1):34-45. doi: 10.1053/sper.2003.50003.


Three percent to 4% of term fetuses will be breech at delivery. Evidence from randomized controlled trials has found a policy of planned cesarean section to be significantly better for the singleton fetus in breech presentation at term compared to a policy of planned vaginal birth. However, some women may wish to avoid cesarean section and for others, cesarean section may not be possible. We undertook this review to identify factors associated with higher and lower risk of adverse fetal or neonatal outcome at term during vaginal breech delivery. We searched MEDLINE from 1966 to 2002 using the search terms vaginal breech delivery and breech presentation and retrieved all relevant articles. We also reviewed personal references and reference lists of articles retrieved. Women who are older or who have a fetus that is either in footling presentation, has a hyperextended head or is estimated to weigh <2500 g or >4000 g may be at higher risk of adverse fetal outcome. Prolonged labor or not having an experienced clinician at vaginal breech birth may also increase the risk. Women with a fetus in breech presentation at term should be offered the option of delivery by planned cesarean section and should be informed that this will reduce their risk of adverse fetal or neonatal outcome. Practitioners should develop and maintain skills at vaginal breech delivery for those women not wishing or not able to be delivered by cesarean section.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breech Presentation*
  • Cesarean Section
  • Delivery, Obstetric* / methods
  • Female
  • Fetal Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Maternal Age
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Version, Fetal