When a baby enters the birth canal in the wrong position, it can be dangerous for mother and child. Doctors must recognize the risk factors and take appropriate action.
In childbirth, most babies are delivered from the birth canal head first. Sometimes, though, the baby gets turned around, and the feet or buttocks enter the birth canal first instead. This is called a breech birth, and it can be dangerous for both mother and child.
You may hear doctors talk about your baby being in a “breech position” or “breech presentation.” It means your pregnancy may be at risk for complications, some of which can cause permanent disability, life-long injury, or death.
In today’s article, we take a closer look at breech birth injuries: the different types, what causes them, how doctors should handle them, and your family’s legal rights after suffering a breech birth injury in Indiana.
Types of Breech Birth
The three most common presentations of breech birth are as follows:
Complete Breech (“Flexed Breech”)
The baby assumes a “cannonball” position, with the buttocks entering the birth canal first and the legs bent at the knees.
Frank Breech (“Extended Breech”)
Similar to a complete breech but with the knees extended and the legs straight up in front of the body, such that the feet are near the head
Incomplete Breech (“Footling Breech”)
One or both legs are stretched out, pointing down away from the buttocks, with the leg(s) positioned so that they will come out of the birth canal first
Frank breech is the most common type of breech birth, accounting for up to 70% of breech births each year. Complete breech is the least common type, accounting for five to ten percent of breech births.
What Causes a Breech Birth?
Doctors don’t always know what causes breech birth. In some cases, there may be no apparent cause. However, medical experts believe that the presence of certain factors makes breech birth more likely. These include:
- Early labor / premature birth
- Excessive amniotic fluid
- Insufficient amniotic fluid
- Placenta previa
- Small maternal pelvis or uterus / contracted pelvis
- Lax pelvic wall
- Congenital abnormalities
- Fibroids or other abnormalities in the uterus
- Maternal history of breech birth and/or premature delivery
- Multiple previous pregnancies
- Giving birth to twins, triplets, etc.
- Fetal macrosomia
A Doctor’s Duty: Diagnosing and Managing a Breech Birth
Doctors should be familiar with the risk factors that make breech birth more likely, including those listed above. Careful monitoring is required throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery in order to avoid a breech position if possible or, alternatively, to respond appropriately so as to minimize the risk of injury or death.
In some instances, a doctor may attempt to reposition the baby manually prior to delivery. Otherwise, the doctor will have to decide whether vaginal birth is advisable under the circumstances.
In the vast majority of cases where the baby cannot be safely turned out of a breech position prior to delivery, a C-section is the safest course of action. Failure to recommend or perform a C-section is a common cause of action among parents who take legal action over breech birth injuries.
If the doctor decides that a vaginal birth is necessary or advisable despite the baby’s breech position, then the doctor and attending medical staff must exercise great care to avoid injury. Depending on the circumstances, appropriate care might include:
- performing x-rays and/or ultra-sounds
- monitoring maternal and fetal heart rates
- confirming that an emergency (or “stat”) C-section procedure will be available in the hospital or clinic on a moment’s notice
Any failure to meet these duties by the doctor, hospital, or any other medical professional may constitute a breach of the standard of care and can result in breech birth injuries for which the provider may be liable.
Common Breech Birth Injuries
Breech birth can result in a number of serious injuries or complications, including (but not necessarily limited to):
- Fetal distress
- Prolapsed umbilical cord
- Fetal oxygen deprivation
- Nuchal cord injury/birth asphyxia
- Nerve damage
- Brachial plexus injury
- Shoulder dystocia
- Cerebral palsy
- Hypoxic/ischemic encephalopathy
- Developmental delays (e.g. physical or intellectual disability)
- Trauma to the baby’s head, neck, or spine (e.g. cervical spine injury, traumatic brain injury, cerebral hemorrhage)
Talk to an Indiana Birth Injury Lawyer at Doehrman Buba
If you or your baby has been injured as a result of breech birth, please contact our office to talk about your situation and what your options might be.
Families whose newborn has suffered one or more breech birth injuries as a result of medical negligence may be entitled to financial compensation under Indiana’s medical malpractice laws.
We will not charge you a fee unless we are successful in recovering compensation for your claim. To learn more, please contact Doehrman Buba and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Indiana birth injury lawyers today.