Vaginal breech birth: can we move beyond the Term Breech Trial?

J Midwifery Womens Health. May-Jun 2014;59(3):320-7. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12198. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


Since the publication of the Term Breech Trial in 2000, planned cesarean has become the preferred mode of birth for women whose fetus is in a breech presentation. Over the past 20 years, however, subsequent evidence has not shown conclusively that cesarean birth is safer than vaginal birth for a fetus in a breech presentation when certain criteria are met. Many obstetric organizations support the option of planned vaginal birth for women with a breech presentation under strict prelabor selection criteria and intrapartum management guidelines. The growing trend toward cesarean unfortunately has left midwives and other intrapartum care providers in training with dwindling opportunities to competently master skills for vaginal breech birth. Although simulation training offers opportunities to practice infrequently encountered skills such as vaginal breech birth, it is unknown if this alternative will provide sufficient experience for future generations of clinicians. As a result, women with a breech presentation at term who desire a trial of labor often have limited choices. This article reviews the controversies surrounding the ideal mode of birth created by the Term Breech Trial. Criteria for vaginal breech birth are summarized and the role of simulation explored. Implications for midwifery practice when a breech presentation is diagnosed are also included.

Keywords: breech birth; breech presentation; external cephalic version; moxibustion; term breech controversy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breech Presentation*
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Term Birth
  • Trial of Labor*