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Fetal Malpresentation and Malposition

Fetal presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor describes which part of the fetus will enter through the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy first, while position is the orientation Orientation Awareness of oneself in relation to time, place and person. Psychiatric Assessment of the fetus compared to the maternal bony pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 "hip" bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy. Presentations include vertex (the fetal occiput will present through the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy first), face, brow, shoulder, and breech. If a fetal limb is presenting next to the presenting part (e.g., the hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy is next to the head), this is known as a compound presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor. Malpresentation refers to any presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor other than vertex, with the most common being breech presentations. Vaginal delivery of a breech infant increases the risk for head entrapment and hypoxia Hypoxia Sub-optimal oxygen levels in the ambient air of living organisms. Ischemic Cell Damage, so, especially in the United States, mothers are generally offered a procedure to help manually rotate the baby to a head-down position instead (known as an external cephalic version) or a planned cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery (CD) is the operative delivery of ≥ 1 infants through a surgical incision in the maternal abdomen and uterus. Cesarean deliveries may be indicated for a number of either maternal or fetal reasons, most commonly including fetal intolerance to labor, arrest of labor, a history of prior uterine surgery, fetal malpresentation, and placental abnormalities. Cesarean Delivery.

Last updated: Apr 3, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Overview

Definition

  • The “presenting part” refers to the part of the baby that will come through the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy first. 
  • The position refers to how that body part (and thus the baby) is oriented within the maternal pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy
  • The uterine fundus Fundus The superior portion of the body of the stomach above the level of the cardiac notch. Stomach: Anatomy is typically roomier, so babies tend to orient themselves head down so that their body and limbs occupy the larger portion of the uterus Uterus The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The uterus has a thick wall made of smooth muscle (the myometrium) and an inner mucosal layer (the endometrium). The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy.

Clinical relevance

  • The maternal pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy has a diameter of about 10 cm, through which the fetus must pass.
  • The presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor and position of the fetus will determine how wide the fetus is (known as the “presenting fetal diameter”) as it attempts to pass through the maternal pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy.
  • Certain presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor/positions are more difficult (or even impossible) to pass through the pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy because of their large presenting diameter.
  • Knowledge of the presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor and position are required to safely manage labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor and delivery.

Risk factors for fetal malpresentation

  • Multiparity (which can result in lax abdominal walls)
  • Multiple gestations (e.g., twins)
  • Prematurity Prematurity Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Uterine abnormalities (e.g., leiomyomas, uterine septa)
  • Narrow pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy shapes
  • Fetal anomalies (e.g., hydrocephalus Hydrocephalus Excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the cranium which may be associated with dilation of cerebral ventricles, intracranial. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage)
  • Placental anomalies (e.g.,  placenta previa Placenta Previa Abnormal placentation in which the placenta implants in the lower segment of the uterus (the zone of dilation) and may cover part or all of the opening of the cervix. It is often associated with serious antepartum bleeding and premature labor. Placental Abnormalities, in which the placenta Placenta A highly vascularized mammalian fetal-maternal organ and major site of transport of oxygen, nutrients, and fetal waste products. It includes a fetal portion (chorionic villi) derived from trophoblasts and a maternal portion (decidua) derived from the uterine endometrium. The placenta produces an array of steroid, protein and peptide hormones (placental hormones). Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity covers the internal cervical os)
  • Amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid A clear, yellowish liquid that envelopes the fetus inside the sac of amnion. In the first trimester, it is likely a transudate of maternal or fetal plasma. In the second trimester, amniotic fluid derives primarily from fetal lung and kidney. Cells or substances in this fluid can be removed for prenatal diagnostic tests (amniocentesis). Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity abnormalities: 
    • Polyhydramnios Polyhydramnios Polyhydramnios is a pathological excess of amniotic fluid. Common causes of polyhydramnios include fetal anomalies, gestational diabetes, multiple gestations, and congenital infections. Patients are often asymptomatic but may present with dyspnea, extremity swelling, or abdominal distention. Polyhydramnios (too much fluid)
    • Oligohydramnios Oligohydramnios Oligohydramnios refers to amniotic fluid volume less than expected for the current gestational age. Oligohydramnios is diagnosed by ultrasound and defined as an amniotic fluid index (AFI) of ‰¤ 5 cm or a single deep pocket (SDP) of < 2 cm in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. Oligohydramnios (not enough fluid)
  • Malpresentation in a previous pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care

Epidemiology

Prevalence Prevalence The total number of cases of a given disease in a specified population at a designated time. It is differentiated from incidence, which refers to the number of new cases in the population at a given time. Measures of Disease Frequency rates for different malpresentations at term:

  • Vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor, occiput posterior position: 1 in 19 deliveries
  • Breech presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: 1 in 33 deliveries
  • Face presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: 1 in 600–800 deliveries
  • Transverse lie: 1 in 833 deliveries
  • Compound presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: 1 in 1500 deliveries 

Fetal Lie and Presentation

Fetal lie

Fetal lie is how the long axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy of the fetus is oriented in relation to the mother. Possible lies include:

  • Longitudinal: fetus and mother have the same vertical axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy (their spines are parallel).
  • Transverse: fetal vertical axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy is at a 90-degree angle to mother’s vertical axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy (their spines are perpendicular).
  • Oblique: fetal vertical axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy is at a 45-degree angle to mother’s vertical axis Axis The second cervical vertebra. Vertebral Column: Anatomy (unstable, and will resolve to longitudinal or transverse during labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor).

Presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor

Presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor describes which body part of the fetus will pass through the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy first. Presentations include:

  • Longitudinal presentations:
    • Cephalic: head down
    • Breech: bottom/feet down
  • Transverse presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: shoulder 
  • Compound presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: an extremity presents alongside the primary presenting part

Cephalic presentations

Cephalic presentations can be categorized as:

  • Vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: chin Chin The anatomical frontal portion of the mandible, also known as the mentum, that contains the line of fusion of the two separate halves of the mandible (symphysis menti). This line of fusion divides inferiorly to enclose a triangular area called the mental protuberance. On each side, inferior to the second premolar tooth, is the mental foramen for the passage of blood vessels and a nerve. Melasma flexed, with the occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy fontanel as the presenting part
  • Face presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor
  • Brow presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: forehead Forehead The part of the face above the eyes. Melasma is the presenting part

Breech presentations

Breech presentations can be categorized as:

  • Frank breech: bottom down, legs extended (50%–70%) 
  • Complete breech: bottom down, hips and knees both flexed
  • Incomplete breech: 1 or both hips not completely flexed
  • Footling breech: feet down
Breech presentations

Breech presentations:
Frank (bottom down, legs extended), complete (bottom down, hips and knees both flexed), and footling (feet down) breech presentations

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Transverse and compound presentations

  • Transverse presentations: 
    • Uncommon, but when they occur, the presenting fetal part is the shoulder.
    • If the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy begins dilating, the arm Arm The arm, or “upper arm” in common usage, is the region of the upper limb that extends from the shoulder to the elbow joint and connects inferiorly to the forearm through the cubital fossa. It is divided into 2 fascial compartments (anterior and posterior). Arm: Anatomy may prolapse through the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy.
  • In compound presentations, the most common situation is a hand Hand The hand constitutes the distal part of the upper limb and provides the fine, precise movements needed in activities of daily living. It consists of 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges, as well as numerous muscles innervated by the median and ulnar nerves. Hand: Anatomy or arm Arm The arm, or “upper arm” in common usage, is the region of the upper limb that extends from the shoulder to the elbow joint and connects inferiorly to the forearm through the cubital fossa. It is divided into 2 fascial compartments (anterior and posterior). Arm: Anatomy presenting with the head.

Fetal malpresentation

  • Any presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor other than vertex
  • Clinically, this means breech, face, brow, and shoulder presentations.

Position

Position describes the relation of the fetal presenting part to the maternal bony pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy.

Vertex positions

Positions for vertex presentations describe the position of the fetal occiput.

  • Identified on cervical exam as the area in the midline between the anterior and posterior fontanelles Fontanelles Physical Examination of the Newborn
  • The fetal occiput is classified as being:
    • Anterior, posterior, or transverse in relation to the maternal pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy
    • Being on the maternal right or left
  • Terminology examples:
    • Right or left occiput anterior
    • Right or left occiput posterior
    • Right or left occiput transverse
    • Direct occiput anterior or posterior
  • The most common positions (and easiest for vaginal delivery) are occiput anterior.
Vertex positions

Overview of different vertex positions
LOA: left occiput anterior
LOP: left occiput posterior
LOT: left occiput transverse
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OP: occiput posterior
ROA: right occiput anterior
ROP: right occiput posterior
ROT: right occiput transverse

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Face and brow positions

Positions for face and brow presentations describe the position of the chin Chin The anatomical frontal portion of the mandible, also known as the mentum, that contains the line of fusion of the two separate halves of the mandible (symphysis menti). This line of fusion divides inferiorly to enclose a triangular area called the mental protuberance. On each side, inferior to the second premolar tooth, is the mental foramen for the passage of blood vessels and a nerve. Melasma.

  • The chin Chin The anatomical frontal portion of the mandible, also known as the mentum, that contains the line of fusion of the two separate halves of the mandible (symphysis menti). This line of fusion divides inferiorly to enclose a triangular area called the mental protuberance. On each side, inferior to the second premolar tooth, is the mental foramen for the passage of blood vessels and a nerve. Melasma is referred to as the mentum.
  • Like occiput positions, mentum positions include:
    • Right or left mentum anterior
    • Right or left mentum posterior
    • Right or left mentum transverse
    • Direct mentum anterior or posterior

Breech and shoulder positions

  • Positions for breech presentations describe the position of the sacrum Sacrum Five fused vertebrae forming a triangle-shaped structure at the back of the pelvis. It articulates superiorly with the lumbar vertebrae, inferiorly with the coccyx, and anteriorly with the ilium of the pelvis. The sacrum strengthens and stabilizes the pelvis. Vertebral Column: Anatomy. Similar to other presentations, they include anterior, posterior, and transverse and right, left, and direct.
  • Positions for shoulder presentations/transverse lies describe the position of the back; they are simply described as:
    • Dorso-superior (back up)
    • Dorso-inferior (back down)

Attitude and asynclitism

  • Attitude: amount of flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs or extension Extension Examination of the Upper Limbs of the fetal head
  • Asynclitism: 
    • Lateral deflection of the sagittal Sagittal Computed Tomography (CT) suture to 1 side or the other
    • Mild degrees of asynclitism are normal.
    • More severe asynclitism increases the presenting fetal diameter and makes it more difficult for the fetal head to pass through the maternal pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy.

Fetal malposition

  • Commonly refers to any position other than right occiput anterior, left occiput anterior, or direct occiput anterior
  • All nonvertex presentations are also malpositioned.
  • The terms fetal malpresentation and fetal malposition are often used interchangeably.

Presenting Diameter

  • The presenting diameter refers to the width of the presenting part.
  • The maternal pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy is about 10 cm at its narrowest point; the infant must orient itself so that it can fit through.
  • Most commonly, the infant will move into a cephalic, vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor, in 1 of the occiput anterior positions → presents the narrowest diameter
  • Presenting diameters:
    • Vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: suboccipitobregmatic diameter, approximately 9.5 cm
    • Vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor with deflexed head: occipitofrontal diameter, approximately 11.5 cm
    • Brow presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: occipitomental diameter, approximately 13 cm
    • Face presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor: submentobregmatic diameter, approximately 9.5 cm

Diagnosis

How to establish lie, presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor, and position

Delivery is managed differently depending on the presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor and position of the infant. This information can be established in several different ways:

  • Leopold’s maneuvers
  • Ultrasonography
  • Cervical examination

Leopold’s maneuvers

  • Techniques using abdominal palpation Palpation Application of fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body to determine consistency of parts beneath in physical diagnosis; includes palpation for determining the outlines of organs. Dermatologic Examination to determine the presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor of the fetus
  • Techniques/maneuvers:
    • Palpate the uterine fundus Fundus The superior portion of the body of the stomach above the level of the cardiac notch. Stomach: Anatomy and suprapubic area to determine the lie/ presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor
      • The fetal head will be hard and round.
      • The lower body will be bulkier, nodular, and mobile.
    • Palpate the sides of the maternal abdomen to determine the orientation Orientation Awareness of oneself in relation to time, place and person. Psychiatric Assessment
      • The back will be hard and smooth.
      • The other side (anterior surface of the fetus) will be filled with irregular, mobile fetal parts.
  • Experienced providers can also estimate the fetal weight using these maneuvers.

Ultrasonography

  • Bedside abdominal ultrasonography can easily identify the fetal head and its orientation Orientation Awareness of oneself in relation to time, place and person. Psychiatric Assessment.
  • Quick bedside ultrasonography Bedside Ultrasonography ACES and RUSH: Resuscitation Ultrasound Protocols on admission to labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor and delivery to assess fetal presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor is considered standard of care Standard of care The minimum acceptable patient care, based on statutes, court decisions, policies, or professional guidelines. Malpractice.
  • Findings:
    • The fetal head will typically encompass the entire window and appear like a large white circle (the fetal skull Skull The skull (cranium) is the skeletal structure of the head supporting the face and forming a protective cavity for the brain. The skull consists of 22 bones divided into the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) and the neurocranium. Skull: Anatomy).
    • Identification Identification Defense Mechanisms of the eyes can help determine position.
  • While it is good clinical practice to “lay hands” on the mother using Leopold’s maneuvers, bedside ultrasonography Bedside Ultrasonography ACES and RUSH: Resuscitation Ultrasound Protocols should always be performed, if available, to confirm findings because:
    • It is quick and easy to perform and presents minimal risk to mother and infant.
    • Allowing mothers to labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor with infants in a noncephalic presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor significantly increases the risks to both of them.
Suprapubic bedside ultrasound confirming a cephalic presentation

Suprapubic bedside ultrasound showing the large white circle of the fetal skull Skull The skull (cranium) is the skeletal structure of the head supporting the face and forming a protective cavity for the brain. The skull consists of 22 bones divided into the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) and the neurocranium. Skull: Anatomy, confirming a cephalic presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor
F: fetal falx

Image: “ Prenatal ultrasound scans image of the fetus” by Wijerathne BT, Rathnayake GK, Ranaraja SK SK Seborrheic keratosis (sk) is the most common benign epithelial cutaneous neoplasm. The condition consists of immature keratinocytes. Seborrheic keratosis is the most common benign skin tumor in middle-aged and elderly adults and presents as a sharply demarcated, exophytic, skin lesion that may be tan or black and has a “stuck-on” appearance. Seborrheic Keratosis. License: CC BY 3.0

Vaginal and cervical examination

Management of Cephalic and Compound Presentations

Vertex presentations

  • Expectant management
  • All have high chances of successful vaginal delivery.

Compound presentations

  • Management: 
    • Observation when labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor is progressing normally (many compound presentations will resolve spontaneously intrapartum).
    • Can attempt to gently pinch the compound extremity trying to provoke the fetus into withdrawing the part (no good quality Quality Activities and programs intended to assure or improve the quality of care in either a defined medical setting or a program. The concept includes the assessment or evaluation of the quality of care; identification of problems or shortcomings in the delivery of care; designing activities to overcome these deficiencies; and follow-up monitoring to ensure effectiveness of corrective steps. Quality Measurement and Improvement evidence, but unlikely to be harmful)
    • Can attempt to manually replace the compound extremity
    • If labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor is prolonged and the compound part remains, cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery (CD) is the operative delivery of ≥ 1 infants through a surgical incision in the maternal abdomen and uterus. Cesarean deliveries may be indicated for a number of either maternal or fetal reasons, most commonly including fetal intolerance to labor, arrest of labor, a history of prior uterine surgery, fetal malpresentation, and placental abnormalities. Cesarean Delivery (CD) should be performed.
  • Complications:
    • Prolonged labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor
    • Umbilical cord Umbilical cord The flexible rope-like structure that connects a developing fetus to the placenta in mammals. The cord contains blood vessels which carry oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus and waste products away from the fetus. Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity prolapse
    • Increased maternal morbidity Morbidity The proportion of patients with a particular disease during a given year per given unit of population. Measures of Health Status from lacerations
    • Ischemia Ischemia A hypoperfusion of the blood through an organ or tissue caused by a pathologic constriction or obstruction of its blood vessels, or an absence of blood circulation. Ischemic Cell Damage of the compound part

Brow presentations

  • The majority spontaneously convert to a vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor.
  • Expectant management
  • Cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery (CD) is the operative delivery of ≥ 1 infants through a surgical incision in the maternal abdomen and uterus. Cesarean deliveries may be indicated for a number of either maternal or fetal reasons, most commonly including fetal intolerance to labor, arrest of labor, a history of prior uterine surgery, fetal malpresentation, and placental abnormalities. Cesarean Delivery may be required if labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor is prolonged.

Face presentations

  • Management depends on the position.
  • Mentum anterior ( chin Chin The anatomical frontal portion of the mandible, also known as the mentum, that contains the line of fusion of the two separate halves of the mandible (symphysis menti). This line of fusion divides inferiorly to enclose a triangular area called the mental protuberance. On each side, inferior to the second premolar tooth, is the mental foramen for the passage of blood vessels and a nerve. Melasma facing the maternal pubic bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types): 
    • Expectant management
    • Can be delivered vaginally by an experienced provider
    • Cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery (CD) is the operative delivery of ≥ 1 infants through a surgical incision in the maternal abdomen and uterus. Cesarean deliveries may be indicated for a number of either maternal or fetal reasons, most commonly including fetal intolerance to labor, arrest of labor, a history of prior uterine surgery, fetal malpresentation, and placental abnormalities. Cesarean Delivery may be required.
  • Mentum posterior (MP; chin Chin The anatomical frontal portion of the mandible, also known as the mentum, that contains the line of fusion of the two separate halves of the mandible (symphysis menti). This line of fusion divides inferiorly to enclose a triangular area called the mental protuberance. On each side, inferior to the second premolar tooth, is the mental foramen for the passage of blood vessels and a nerve. Melasma facing the maternal sacrum Sacrum Five fused vertebrae forming a triangle-shaped structure at the back of the pelvis. It articulates superiorly with the lumbar vertebrae, inferiorly with the coccyx, and anteriorly with the ilium of the pelvis. The sacrum strengthens and stabilizes the pelvis. Vertebral Column: Anatomy):
    • Head is fully extended and unable to pass through the birth canal Birth canal Pelvis: Anatomy.
    • Normally, the fetal head flexes as it passes under the pubic bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types; however, this is impossible in an MP position.
    • Cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery (CD) is the operative delivery of ≥ 1 infants through a surgical incision in the maternal abdomen and uterus. Cesarean deliveries may be indicated for a number of either maternal or fetal reasons, most commonly including fetal intolerance to labor, arrest of labor, a history of prior uterine surgery, fetal malpresentation, and placental abnormalities. Cesarean Delivery is always required (unless the infant spontaneously rotates to a mentum anterior (MA) position).

Risks and Management of Breech and Transverse Presentations

There are 3 primary options for managing breech presentations: performing CD, attempting an external cephalic version to manually rotate the baby into a vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor for attempted vaginal delivery, or a planned vaginal breech delivery (which is generally not done in the United States).

Natural history of breech presentations

Most infants will spontaneously rotate to a vertex presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor as the pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care progresses. At different gestational ages, the prevalence Prevalence The total number of cases of a given disease in a specified population at a designated time. It is differentiated from incidence, which refers to the number of new cases in the population at a given time. Measures of Disease Frequency of breech presentations is:

  • < 28 weeks: 20%–25%
  • 32 weeks: 10%–15%
  • Term (> 37 weeks): 3% 
  • Spontaneous version is possible even at > 40 weeks.
  • Factors that ↑ chance of spontaneous version:
    • Flexed fetal legs
    • Polyhydramnios Polyhydramnios Polyhydramnios is a pathological excess of amniotic fluid. Common causes of polyhydramnios include fetal anomalies, gestational diabetes, multiple gestations, and congenital infections. Patients are often asymptomatic but may present with dyspnea, extremity swelling, or abdominal distention. Polyhydramnios
    • Longer umbilical cord Umbilical cord The flexible rope-like structure that connects a developing fetus to the placenta in mammals. The cord contains blood vessels which carry oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus and waste products away from the fetus. Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity
    • Lack of fetal/uterine anomalies
    • Multiparity

Fetal risks associated with breech presentations

The following risks are associated with breech presentations in utero, regardless of mode of delivery:

  • ↑ Association with congenital malformations Congenital malformations Congenital malformations or teratogenic birth defects are developmental disorders that arise before birth during the embryonic or fetal period. The rate of incidence for children born alive is approximately 3%. Teratogenic Birth Defects
  • Torticollis Torticollis A symptom, not a disease, of a twisted neck. In most instances, the head is tipped toward one side and the chin rotated toward the other. The involuntary muscle contractions in the neck region of patients with torticollis can be due to congenital defects, trauma, inflammation, tumors, and neurological or other factors. Cranial Nerve Palsies
  • Developmental hip dysplasia Dysplasia Cellular Adaptation 

Fetal risks associated with vaginal breech delivery

The primary risk of a vaginal breech delivery is fetal head entrapment:

  • The fetal body delivers, but the head remains trapped in the uterus Uterus The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The uterus has a thick wall made of smooth muscle (the myometrium) and an inner mucosal layer (the endometrium). The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy.
  • Causes compression Compression Blunt Chest Trauma of the umbilical cord Umbilical cord The flexible rope-like structure that connects a developing fetus to the placenta in mammals. The cord contains blood vessels which carry oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus and waste products away from the fetus. Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity running past the head (between the delivered umbilicus and the undelivered placenta Placenta A highly vascularized mammalian fetal-maternal organ and major site of transport of oxygen, nutrients, and fetal waste products. It includes a fetal portion (chorionic villi) derived from trophoblasts and a maternal portion (decidua) derived from the uterine endometrium. The placenta produces an array of steroid, protein and peptide hormones (placental hormones). Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity
  • Leads to hypoxia Hypoxia Sub-optimal oxygen levels in the ambient air of living organisms. Ischemic Cell Damage until head is delivered → ↑ risk of fetal death
  • Occurs because the fetal head is the largest part of the fetus and thus the most difficult to squeeze beneath the pubic bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types:
    • The cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy may not be fully dilated enough to accommodate the head.
    • The fetal head may not fit through the bony pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy.
    • The mother’s expulsive efforts are unable to quickly deliver the head.
  • Other risks of vaginal breech delivery:
    • Umbilical cord Umbilical cord The flexible rope-like structure that connects a developing fetus to the placenta in mammals. The cord contains blood vessels which carry oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus and waste products away from the fetus. Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity prolapse during labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor → requires emergent CD
    • Birth injuries to the fetus (e.g., brachial plexus Brachial Plexus The large network of nerve fibers which distributes the innervation of the upper extremity. The brachial plexus extends from the neck into the axilla. In humans, the nerves of the plexus usually originate from the lower cervical and the first thoracic spinal cord segments (c5-c8 and T1), but variations are not uncommon. Peripheral Nerve Injuries in the Cervicothoracic Region injury)

Vaginal breech delivery

Vaginal breech deliveries for singleton gestations may be considered for certain low-risk women if vaginal delivery is strongly desired by the mother. In contrast, vaginal breech deliveries are done frequently for breech 2nd twins; the procedure is known as a breech extraction.

  • Mothers must be fully counseled on risks.
  • Mothers and infants should be monitored throughout labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor with continuous electronic fetal heart rate Heart rate The number of times the heart ventricles contract per unit of time, usually per minute. Cardiac Physiology (FHR) and tocometry monitors.
  • Mothers should understand that a CD will be recommended if there are signs of fetal distress or prolonged labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor.
  • Avoid artificial rupture of membranes to ↓ risk of cord prolapse.
  • Criteria for selecting low-risk women for planned vaginal breech delivery:
    • Frank or complete breech presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor with no hyperextension of the fetal head on ultrasonography
    • No contraindications Contraindications A condition or factor associated with a recipient that makes the use of a drug, procedure, or physical agent improper or inadvisable. Contraindications may be absolute (life threatening) or relative (higher risk of complications in which benefits may outweigh risks). Noninvasive Ventilation to a vaginal birth
    • No prior CDs
    • Prior successful vaginal deliveries (i.e., multiparity)
    • Gestational age Gestational age The age of the conceptus, beginning from the time of fertilization. In clinical obstetrics, the gestational age is often estimated as the time from the last day of the last menstruation which is about 2 weeks before ovulation and fertilization. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care ≥ 36 weeks
    • Spontaneous labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor
    • Normal bony pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy shown on X-ray X-ray Penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital electrons of an atom are excited and release radiant energy. X-ray wavelengths range from 1 pm to 10 nm. Hard x-rays are the higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays. Soft x-rays or grenz rays are less energetic and longer in wavelength. The short wavelength end of the x-ray spectrum overlaps the gamma rays wavelength range. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. Pulmonary Function Tests
    • Estimated fetal weight Estimated Fetal Weight Obstetric Imaging between approximately 2500 and 3500 grams (exact range varies based on clinician Clinician A physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or another health professional who is directly involved in patient care and has a professional relationship with patients. Clinician–Patient Relationship)
  • Breech extraction of a 2nd twin:
    • Immediately after delivery of the 1st twin in the cephalic presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor, the physician reaches up into the uterus Uterus The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The uterus has a thick wall made of smooth muscle (the myometrium) and an inner mucosal layer (the endometrium). The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy, manually grabs the infant’s legs, and gently guides them down through the birth canal Birth canal Pelvis: Anatomy while the cervix Cervix The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Externally, the cervix is lined by stratified squamous cells; however, the cervical canal is lined by columnar epithelium. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy is still fully dilated.
    • ↓ Risk of head entrapment compared to singleton vaginal breech deliveries

External cephalic version

An external cephalic version (ECV) is a procedure in which the physician attempts to manually rotate the fetus from a breech to a cephalic presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor by pushing on the maternal abdomen.

  • Success rate: 
    • Approximately 50%–60% (higher in multiparous Multiparous A woman with prior deliveries Normal and Abnormal Labor than in nulliparous women) 
    • In 1 large study, after a successful version:
      • 97% of infants remained cephalic at birth.
      • 86% delivered vaginally.
  • Plan:
    • Women who are candidates for ECV should be counseled on their options to attempt an ECV, or they may simply elect to schedule a CD.
    • Typically done at 37 weeks (balances risks and benefits):
      • Infant is full term in case emergent CD is required because of complications from the procedure (e.g., placental abruption Placental Abruption Premature separation of the normally implanted placenta from the uterus. Signs of varying degree of severity include uterine bleeding, uterine muscle hypertonia, and fetal distress or fetal death. Antepartum Hemorrhage).
      • Better ratio of infant size to fluid level than later in pregnancy Pregnancy The status during which female mammals carry their developing young (embryos or fetuses) in utero before birth, beginning from fertilization to birth. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care
      • Allows infant more time for spontaneous version than if the procedure was done earlier
    • After a successful version, the mother can await spontaneous labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor or be induced immediately, depending on the situation.
    • After an unsuccessful version, the mother typically is scheduled for a planned CD at 39 weeks. 
      • There is still a chance that the infant may spontaneously rotate between the failed ECV and the planned CD date; therefore, presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor should always be checked immediately prior to CD.
  • Contraindications Contraindications A condition or factor associated with a recipient that makes the use of a drug, procedure, or physical agent improper or inadvisable. Contraindications may be absolute (life threatening) or relative (higher risk of complications in which benefits may outweigh risks). Noninvasive Ventilation for ECV:
    • Another contraindication for a vaginal delivery (e.g., placenta previa Placenta Previa Abnormal placentation in which the placenta implants in the lower segment of the uterus (the zone of dilation) and may cover part or all of the opening of the cervix. It is often associated with serious antepartum bleeding and premature labor. Placental Abnormalities)
    • Severe oligohydramnios Oligohydramnios Oligohydramnios refers to amniotic fluid volume less than expected for the current gestational age. Oligohydramnios is diagnosed by ultrasound and defined as an amniotic fluid index (AFI) of ‰¤ 5 cm or a single deep pocket (SDP) of < 2 cm in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. Oligohydramnios
    • Nonreassuring fetal monitoring Fetal monitoring The primary goals of antepartum testing and monitoring are to assess fetal well-being, identify treatable situations that may cause complications, and evaluate for chromosomal abnormalities. These tests are divided into screening tests (which include cell-free DNA testing, serum analyte testing, and nuchal translucency measurements), and diagnostic tests, which provide a definitive diagnosis of aneuploidy and include chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis. Antepartum Testing and Monitoring prior to the procedure
    • A hyperextended fetal head
    • Significant fetal or uterine anomalies
    • Multiple gestations (e.g., twins)
  • Risks:
    • Placental abruption Placental Abruption Premature separation of the normally implanted placenta from the uterus. Signs of varying degree of severity include uterine bleeding, uterine muscle hypertonia, and fetal distress or fetal death. Antepartum Hemorrhage: the pressure placed on the uterus Uterus The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The uterus has a thick wall made of smooth muscle (the myometrium) and an inner mucosal layer (the endometrium). The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy during the procedure can result in premature Premature Childbirth before 37 weeks of pregnancy (259 days from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period, or 245 days after fertilization). Necrotizing Enterocolitis separation of the placenta Placenta A highly vascularized mammalian fetal-maternal organ and major site of transport of oxygen, nutrients, and fetal waste products. It includes a fetal portion (chorionic villi) derived from trophoblasts and a maternal portion (decidua) derived from the uterine endometrium. The placenta produces an array of steroid, protein and peptide hormones (placental hormones). Placenta, Umbilical Cord, and Amniotic Cavity from the uterus Uterus The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The uterus has a thick wall made of smooth muscle (the myometrium) and an inner mucosal layer (the endometrium). The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy:
      • Leads to fetal and maternal hemorrhage
      • An immediate CD is required.
    • Premature Premature Childbirth before 37 weeks of pregnancy (259 days from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period, or 245 days after fertilization). Necrotizing Enterocolitis rupture of membranes ( PROM PROM Prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM), previously known as premature rupture of membranes, refers to the rupture of the amniotic sac before the onset of labor. Prelabor rupture of membranes may occur in term or preterm pregnancies. Prelabor Rupture of Membranes): the pressure placed on the uterus Uterus The uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes are part of the internal female reproductive system. The uterus has a thick wall made of smooth muscle (the myometrium) and an inner mucosal layer (the endometrium). The most inferior portion of the uterus is the cervix, which connects the uterine cavity to the vagina. Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy during the procedure can result in rupture of membranes:
      • If the version was successful, labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor should be induced immediately.
      • If the version was unsuccessful, the mother should undergo immediate CD.
      • Cord prolapse: can occur with PROM PROM Prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM), previously known as premature rupture of membranes, refers to the rupture of the amniotic sac before the onset of labor. Prelabor rupture of membranes may occur in term or preterm pregnancies. Prelabor Rupture of Membranes and requires immediate/emergent CD.
    • Fetal distress: 
      • Common during the procedure, but typically resolves shortly after pressure on the abdomen is released.
      • If distress persists, the mother should undergo an immediate CD.

Cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery (CD) is the operative delivery of ≥ 1 infants through a surgical incision in the maternal abdomen and uterus. Cesarean deliveries may be indicated for a number of either maternal or fetal reasons, most commonly including fetal intolerance to labor, arrest of labor, a history of prior uterine surgery, fetal malpresentation, and placental abnormalities. Cesarean Delivery

  • Scheduled at 39 weeks’ gestational age Gestational age The age of the conceptus, beginning from the time of fertilization. In clinical obstetrics, the gestational age is often estimated as the time from the last day of the last menstruation which is about 2 weeks before ovulation and fertilization. Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Physiology, and Care (WGA) if the infant is known to be in the breech presentation Presentation The position or orientation of the fetus at near term or during obstetric labor, determined by its relation to the spine of the mother and the birth canal. The normal position is a vertical, cephalic presentation with the fetal vertex flexed on the neck. Normal and Abnormal Labor.
  • Alternative option to attempting ECV
  • Compared to a vaginal delivery of a cephalic infant, CD has a higher risk for:
    • Postpartum hemorrhage Postpartum hemorrhage Postpartum hemorrhage is one of the most common and deadly obstetric complications. Since 2017, postpartum hemorrhage has been defined as blood loss greater than 1,000 mL for both cesarean and vaginal deliveries, or excessive blood loss with signs of hemodynamic instability. Postpartum Hemorrhage
    • Postpartum endomyometritis
    • Maternal injury
    • Longer recovery time postpartum
    • Complications in future pregnancies (e.g., placenta previa Placenta Previa Abnormal placentation in which the placenta implants in the lower segment of the uterus (the zone of dilation) and may cover part or all of the opening of the cervix. It is often associated with serious antepartum bleeding and premature labor. Placental Abnormalities, placenta accreta Placenta Accreta Abnormal placentation in which all or parts of the placenta are attached directly to the myometrium due to a complete or partial absence of decidua. It is associated with postpartum hemorrhage because of the failure of placental separation. Placental Abnormalities, uterine rupture Uterine Rupture A complete separation or tear in the wall of the uterus with or without expulsion of the fetus. It may be due to injuries, multiple pregnancies, large fetus, previous scarring, or obstruction. Antepartum Hemorrhage)
  • Indications for CD with breech presentations:
    • Maternal request (mother declines ECV attempt)
    • ECV contraindicated
    • ECV unsuccessful
    • Fetal distress during labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor
    • Prolonged labor Labor Labor is the normal physiologic process defined as uterine contractions resulting in dilatation and effacement of the cervix, which culminates in expulsion of the fetus and the products of conception. Normal and Abnormal Labor

Management of transverse presentations

  • As with breech presentations, mothers may be offered an attempt at ECV or a CD.
  • Unlike breech presentations, vaginal transverse delivery is always contraindicated.

References

  1. Hofmeyr, G.J. (2021). Overview of breech presentation. In Barss, V.A. (Ed.), UpToDate. Retrieved July 14, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-breech-presentation 
  2. Hofmeyr, G.J. (2021). Delivery of the singleton fetus in breech presentation. In Barss, V.A. (Ed.), UpToDate. Retrieved July 14, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/delivery-of-the-singleton-fetus-in-breech-presentation 
  3. Hofmeyr, G.J. (2021). External cephalic version. In Barss, V.A. (Ed.), UpToDate. Retrieved July 14, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/external-cephalic-version 
  4. Julien, S., and Galerneau, F. (2021). Face and brow presentations in labor. In Barss, V.A., (Ed.), UpToDate. Retrieved July 14, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/face-and-brow-presentations-in-labor 
  5. Strauss, R.A., Herrera, C.A. (2021). Transverse fetal lie. In Barss, V.A., (Ed.), UpToDate. Retrieved July 14, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/transverse-fetal-lie 
  6. Barth, W.H. (2021). Compound fetal presentation. In Barss, V.A., (Ed.), UpToDate. Retrieved July 14, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/compound-fetal-presentation 
  7. Cunningham, F. G., Leveno, K. J., et al. (2010). Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 374‒382. 

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