Fetal positions during labor

The fetal positions that babies will acquire during labor are a mystery that accompanies mothers. Not until the end of pregnancy, thanks to the diagnostic methods that we currently have.

Find out in this article which ones can be presented and what we should know about each one, as it is one of the factors that determines whether it will be a natural delivery or a cesarean section.

When speaking of fetal position, reference is made to point in the pelvis where the part of the baby that leads the way to the birth canal is located. In general, that part is usually the head, although it can appear on the feet, buttocks or transversely with a shoulder or arm.

Anterior cephalic position

In this position the baby's head is down, toward the birth canal and a little leaning to one side. The crown has fitted into the pelvis and the spinal column faces the mother's abdomen. This is the ideal and most common fetal position: about 95% of babies adopt it.

Posterior cephalic position

This position varies from the previous one because the baby's spine is resting on the mother and the forehead or face is embedded in the pelvis. The position, being cephalic, allows vaginal delivery, although it may be slower, as it makes it difficult to exit through the canal.

Fetal positions are linked to the type of delivery that will take place and its correct development.

Breech or pelvic position

It is a rare position that about 3% of babies take. In this case, the head points towards the mother's head and, depending on the placement of her legs, three types can occur:

  • Incomplete: the baby has the legs up, in front of his body, with the feet close to the face.
  • Complete: the legs are crossed and the feet down, near their buttocks.
  • Breech: one or both feet are down, pointing toward the birth canal.

Vaginal delivery is sometimes achieved in this position, despite the difficulty posed by the position. To avoid putting the baby and the mother at risk, it is common for health workers to try to turn the baby with a technique called external cephalic version. If necessary, a cesarean section will be scheduled to avoid mishaps.


In the transverse fetal position, the part of the baby toward the birth canal may be the shoulder, trunk, hands, or feet. In this position, the baby is crossed, located horizontally in relation to the mother's uterus. If you cannot turn to the cephalic position, a cesarean section should be performed.

Of all the fetal positions during labor, this is the least frequent, since its incidence is approximately 1%. It usually happens when the birth is earlier than the expected delivery date or when it is a multiple pregnancy.

It may interest you: What are the stages of pregnancy?

In what week is the fetus positioned to be born?

Around week 30 of pregnancy the baby will turn his head towards the birth canal, looking at her back, preparing for the birth. However, some fetuses are positioned from week 25 and others reach the end of pregnancy without reaching this cephalic presentation known as nesting.

The normal fetal attitude is a term used to indicate the proper socket position that results in fewer complications for labor. It tells medical personnel that the pelvis is wide and ready for the baby's head to drop.

Known as position 0 to the point where the largest part of the baby's head enters the pelvis at the level of the mother's ischial spines. At this point, the doctor will say that the baby is embedded. If it occurs above the ischial spines, the position is indicated by a negative number ranging from -1 to -5.

There are maneuvers to achieve fetal engagement in the pelvis, but they are not always effective.

Can the mother help the positioning?

Yes, the mother can practice some exercises to help the baby reach the proper fetal positions in the last month of pregnancy. Here are some of them:

  • When sitting, tilts the pelvis forward instead of back.
  • Get on your knees (as if you are cleaning the floor) for a few minutes at various times of the day. This pose helps the baby move into the anterior cephalic position.
  • Spend time sitting on a birthing ball or Pilates exercises.
  • Keep your hips higher than your knees when you sit down.
  • When traveling by car, Sit on a cushion to lift and tilt your butt forward.
  • If you must spend a lot of time sitting, take regular breaks to move.

Keep reading: Ball exercises for pregnant women

Fetal positions determine delivery

Fetal positions can vary until the last moment, so it is best to remain calm. If the baby is still in the cephalic position when the 36th week of pregnancy arrives, you can ask your doctor what he suggests. Ask if you can try adjunctive techniques that encourage proper positioning.

The ultrasound study, known as ultrasound, it will always be a good ally to evaluate the baby's position. It allows to reduce the risks and to project the suitable type of delivery according to each case.