Abnormal fetal position is among many risk factors for serious birth injuries such as cerebral palsy and brachial plexus injuries. While a fetus frequently switches positions throughout pregnancy, at some point during the third trimester, most babies rotate to a position where they are head-first and facing the mother’s back. This is universally considered the safest position and presentation.
These terms are useful when discussing abnormal fetal position:
• Lie – the alignment of the long axis of the mother and baby. Ideally, the bodies of the baby and mother are parallel to one another.
• Presentation – the part of the baby’s body that leads the way through the birth canal.
• Position – the direction the baby is facing when it enters the birth canal.
Not all fetuses make it into the desired position in time for delivery. This can be due to several reasons. If a doctor determines that an emergency delivery is necessary, they may not wait for a baby to rotate into a safer position. In other cases, babies never make it into a safe position.
There are many combinations of positions and presentations, some safer than others. Two of the most common abnormal fetal positions are occiput posterior presentation and breech presentation. Each carries its own set of risks that can be mitigated with proper prenatal care.
Occiput Posterior Presentation
Also called “sunny side up,” this term refers to when a baby is head-first but facing forward, toward the mother’s belly button. This is the most common abnormal presentation. Because the baby’s front-facing position places a strain on the neck and shoulders, a vacuum extractor or forceps-assisted delivery may be necessary. This position may also be the basis for a cesarean delivery. When a baby is in an occiput posterior presentation, there is an increased risk of complication due to the possibility of physical injury or oxygen deprivation.
A breech presentation, when a baby’s buttocks or feet present first, occurs between three to four percent of all births. In a breech delivery, the baby’s lower body makes the path through the birth canal. However, because babies’ heads and shoulders are the widest parts of their bodies, the path created by the lower body may be too small for the upper body to fit. This can cause a baby’s head getting stuck inside the birth canal, placing pressure on the umbilical cord and causing brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. If a doctor knows a baby is in a breech position before labor begins, he or she may rotate the baby into a proper position. However, problems are likely to occur when a baby’s breech position is not discovered until labor has begun.
Anytime a baby presents abnormally or is not in a preferred position, there is a serious risk of injury. These injuries can have lifelong impact on a child’s life and can be fatal. Doctors can and should take precautions to ensure that a baby is in the proper position during prenatal appointments and before inducing labor.
Contact an Experienced Michigan Birth Injury Law Firm
Birth injuries change a child’s life and the cost of medical care and educational support may be staggering. If your child suffered an injury at birth, selecting a law firm to pursue a birth injury lawsuit can be the most critical decision you make for the future of your family. For the past four decades, the Sommers Schwartz law firm has represented families with children who have suffered birth injuries. We are renowned for the quality of our attorneys and the commitment we have to our clients. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries your child suffered at birth, call 1-800-783-0989 to schedule a free consultation.