For babies who are in the breech position-butt or legs first instead of head first during labor-a cesarean section may be safer. An 8-year-long study in Canada found that babies who were delivered by C-section were less likely to suffer an injury or die than those who were delivered vaginally.
Researchers with the Public Health Agency of Canada looked at information on single babies who were in the breech position in all hospital deliveries in Canada between 2003 and 2011; more than 52,600 births in every province except Quebec. They divided the births into women who had a planned C-section, those who had a C-section after labor had started, and those who delivered their baby vaginally.
The majority of babies were born with a C-section that was planned in advance and which took place before labor started.
The rate of injuries or deaths was highest in the group that delivered vaginally. These babies had 3.6 times the rate of injuries as those born in a planned C-section. The babies born with a C-section after labor started had an injury rate that was 2.79 times that seen with a planned C-section.
The study found that the number of breech babies born vaginally went up between 2003 and 2011. The rate was 2.7% in 2003 and it rose to 3.9% in 2011. During the same time, the number of C-sections that took place during labor rose from 8.7% to 9.8%.
Usually, in the last weeks and days of pregnancy, the baby moves into a head down position within the uterus. Sometimes, this move does not take place.
The risks of a baby being born vaginally in breech position include a prolapse of the umbilical cord, which could cut off the oxygen to the baby and could lead to brain damage. Injuries to the spine and head can also occur with a breech birth.