Can You Turn a Transverse Baby?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Their head and feet may be at either the right or left side of your body and their back may be in a few different positions — facing the birth canal, one shoulder facing the birth canal, or hands and stomach facing the birth canal.

Favoring this position close to delivery is relatively rare. In fact, only around one out of every 500 babies settle into a transverse lie in the final weeks of pregnancy. This number could be as high as one in 50 before 32 weeks gestation.

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What’s the issue with this position? Well, if you go into labor with your baby settled this way, their shoulder may enter your pelvis before their head. This could lead to injury or death for your baby or complications for you.

A less risky — but still very real — concern is that this position can be uncomfortable or even painful for the person carrying the baby.

There are several other ways babies can position themselves in the womb:

They use Leopold’s maneuvers, which is the term used to describe how your provider feels around for different landmarks in your belly. With enough practice, your doctor can tell a head from a bottom from a foot.

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However, if it’s difficult to tell for whatever reason, your doctor can also send you for an ultrasound to get a clearer picture of exactly how your baby is positioned in your uterus.

This procedure may sound intense, but it’s safe. Although, the pressure and movement can be uncomfortable, and its success rate isn’t 100 percent. For example, with breech babies, it works only around 50 percent of the time to allow for vaginal delivery.

There are some instances in which your doctor may choose not to try to move your baby this way, such as if your placenta is in a tricky location. Regardless, it’s important to note that when this procedure is done, it’s done in a place where an emergency C-section could be available if it’s needed.

Before you try these methods, ask your doctor or midwife about your plans and if there are any reasons you shouldn’t do things like inversions or certain yoga poses.

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Inversions are movements that put your head below your pelvis. Spinning Babies suggests trying a “big turning day” routine approach. Again, you don’t necessarily need to try these things until you’ve gone beyond the 32-week mark in your pregnancy.

Then position yourself onto the board with your head resting on the pillow (get additional pillows if you want more support) and your pelvis is toward the center of the board. Let your legs hang on either side. Do 2 to 3 repetitions for 5 to 10 minutes a repetition.

In Puppy Pose, you’ll start on your hands and knees. From there, you’ll move your forearms forward until your head rests on the floor. Keep your bottom up and your pelvis directly over your knees, and don’t forget to breathe.

But even if all these acrobatics don’t turn your baby, you can safely deliver via C-section. While it may not be the birth you had planned, it’s the safest route if your baby is persistently sideways, or if there’s some reason he cannot move into a more optimal position.

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Be sure to ask your healthcare provider plenty of questions and voice your concerns with a change in your birth plan. A safe mom and healthy baby are important beyond all else, but your doctor may be able to help alleviate some of your worries or demystify the process to make you feel more comfortable.

Remember that being transverse isn’t necessarily a problem until you reach the end of your pregnancy. If you are still in the first, second, or early third trimester, there’s time for your baby to move.

Regardless of your baby’s position, keep up with all of your regular prenatal care visits, especially toward the end of your pregnancy. The sooner any issues are detected, the sooner you can create a game plan with your healthcare provider.

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