Addressing a long-simmering controversy, a large new study has shown that in pregnancies where the baby has positioned itself to emerge feet or buttocks first, the delivery safest for mother and child is a planned cesarean section, or C-section, rather than a vaginal birth.
In 3 to 4 percent of all pregnancies, the babies end up in the so-called breech position.
Some physicians have favored vaginal delivery for such babies because, like any major surgery, C-sections may lead to blood loss, infection, and other complications in the mother.
Other doctors have preferred C-sections because infants in the breech position tend to get stuck in the birth canal. Such infants may have trouble getting oxygen and may be scraped or injured during delivery. Often, the doctor must call for an emergency C-section in the midst of the birth.
At 121 centers in 26 countries, researchers followed 2,083 women carrying infants in the breech position. Each woman was randomly assign