When Does a Baby Rotate in the Womb?

Timing of Your Baby's Switch to a Heads-Down Position

All those flips, turns, kicks and squirms you feel in your tummy prove just how active your baby is during the second trimester. But by the third trimester, space becomes limited, and your little one starts to tone down his acrobatics routine. Eventually, he should settle into a head-down position in preparation for delivery day.

When Does Your Baby Flip?

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Your baby may switch from a heads-up to a heads-down position and back again earlier in the pregnancy. Most babies rotate and stay in the heads-down position near the beginning of the third trimester. The heads-down position usually happens by 35 to 36 weeks at the latest. If your baby is still in the breech position at this point, your doctor may suggest options for encouraging your baby to rotate or schedule a C-section.

How to Figure Out Your Baby’s Position

It’s not always easy to determine the position of your baby on your own. You probably won’t realize your baby is rotating into the head-down position when it happens. You may be able to tell how your little one is sitting based on the movements you feel. For example, you might feel kicks low in your tummy, or you may think you feel your baby’s head pressing toward the top of your tummy.

If you’re concerned about your baby not flipping at 36 weeks or later, talk to your doctor at your next prenatal visit. The doctor may be able to tell by feeling your stomach or while checking your cervix. Your doctor also may do an ultrasound late in pregnancy if she’s concerned that your baby may be in the breech position.

Options if Your Baby Doesn’t Rotate

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Vaginal delivery of a baby in the breech position is possible, but many doctors don’t want to deliver this way. Your doctor might encourage you to schedule a C-section if your baby isn’t in the head-down position by late in the third trimester. But you don’t have to resign yourself to having surgery just yet. You may be able to encourage your baby to do one final flip into the head-down position before labor.

At home, use gravity to your advantage. Pile pillows on the floor and lay on them, so your hips rest about 1.5 feet above your head. Lie in this position three times a day for about 15 minutes each time. No research backs up this method, but since it doesn’t hurt your baby, it’s worth a try.

Another option some women try is called the “Webster Technique.” It’s a chiropractic adjustment option focusing on the pelvis and sacrum. You may need the adjustment up to 10 times, but some moms only need one or two adjustments to get their baby to flip. Talk to your primary care physician before trying this approach.

If your baby still doesn’t rotate, your doctor may suggest an external cephalic version. Your doctor presses her hands on the outside of your tummy to gently move the baby into a head-down position. You may receive an IV, epidural or medication to relax your muscles to make the process easier. This procedure usually takes place in a hospital, because it can cause labor, fetal distress, water breaking, or other situations that would call for immediate delivery or an emergency C-section. But it’s generally very safe for you and your baby.

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