Sleeping Positions to Turn a Breech Baby

If your baby is breech, they're situated with their feet or buttocks first. Can your sleeping position help them turn them to the ideal head-first presentation? Here's what experts had to say.

An image of a pregnant woman asleep.
Photo: Getty Images.

As you approach your due date, your body does many things to prepare for childbirth. For example, sometime during the second (or third) trimester, Braxton Hicks contractions begin. These contractions help ready the body for labor, toning the muscles and preparing your cervix for birth. Speaking of your cervix, as your pregnancy progresses, this tissue thins out—which is essential for vaginal delivery—and, at some point, your baby may descend or "drop." But did you know your baby is also supposed to turn around to be head-first in your uterus? If the baby's butt or legs are down, this isn't the ideal position for a vaginal birth.

"A breech baby is a baby who's buttocks, feet, or both are positioned to come out first, rather than the baby's head," says Dr. Renita White, M.D., an Atlanta-based OB-GYN. "This occurs in 3 to 4% of full-term pregnancies, as most babies are delivered head first, also known as 'vertex' or 'cephalic.'"

While some breech babies can be delivered vaginally, it's only considered safe in very specific circumstances. Most doctors will perform a C-section for a feet-first or buttocks-first infant; this decreases the odds of complications. Others will recommend a trial of an external cephalic version (ECV), a procedure where the baby is attempted to be turned head-down.

It's important to note that not all babies stay breech. Some turn around on their own before delivery. You can actually do some things to help move your little love bug along, though they aren't guaranteed to work. Here are some exercises, sleeping positions, and activities that might help turn a breech baby.

Best Sleeping Positions for a Breech Baby

If you're late in the pregnancy game, you're probably already sleeping on your side. After all, sleeping on your stomach is uncomfortable and sleeping on your back isn't safe. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the latter might inhibit blood flow to your baby and heart (though data varies on this issue).

But is one side better than the other? Can your sleep position actually help move a breech baby? Not really. According to Dr. White, sleep positions can not and do not affect the baby's position. Still, it might be worth trying to sleep on your side with pillows between your legs. Some experts say this position gives your baby more room, which can make it easier for them to turn.

Best Exercises for a Breech Baby

Some exercises can help a breech baby turn naturally. "Certain postural maneuvers may help to facilitate spontaneous repositioning of a baby from breech to the head-down position," says Dr. White.

Pelvic tilts may encourage your baby to turn, particularly if they are already moving. Inversions, like child's pose, relax the pelvic muscles and uterus while using gravity. Activities like kneeling and lunging may also be beneficial.

What's more, walking encourages movement while loosening the tissues and connective tissue that supports the uterus and pelvis. Talk to your doctor for more exercises to turn a breech baby.

Other Ways to Turn a Breech Baby

While there is no tried-and-true way to turn a breech baby, you might try the following things.

  • External cephalic version. Performed by a physician, usually your OB-GYN, after 37 weeks, an external cephalic version—or version, for short—is a physical manipulation technique which can be used to manually turn your baby. During this procedure, your doctor applies pressure to your abdomen with their hands to try to get your baby to turn. Baby's heart rate is generally monitored and you may or may not be given medication to relax your muscles.
  • Music. If you find your baby reacts to sound or music, you may want to try playing a tune for them. Sometimes a simple melody will get them moving and grooving.
  • Acupuncture with moxibustion. Since acupuncture alleviates pressure, this ancient practice may help relax the muscles of your pelvis and uterus. Licensed practitioners also combine it with moxibustion, which involves burning the herb mugwort (or moxa) near acupuncture points, to turn a breech baby. Some studies have found acupuncture with moxibustion is effective for turning breech babies; talk to your doctor for more information.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles