How Many Types of Fetal Presentations Are There?

How Many Types of Fetal Presentations Are There from North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Adventures of Frugal Mom

The way a baby is positioned inside the mother’s uterus, or their presentation, is a major factor that determines the success of a natural birth without complications. There are three main types of fetal presentations, including one where the shoulder comes out first and another where the foot, leg, or bottom does. It’s not all head-first like you may think.

Detecting these fetal presentations early and making sufficient preparations can reduce the likelihood that mothers or children are harmed during delivery. If you’re expecting a baby, you need to understand how many ways there are that your baby could make its grand entrance. It’s important to know because it could change everything about your delivery. 

Keep reading if you want to know more about your baby’s position and how you can change it. It’ll help you to better understand what you can expect during birth. 

What is Fetal Presentation?

Fetal presentation refers to the way a fetus’s body is oriented within the mother’s womb. During most successful live births, the head will be facing downward so that it is the first part of their body to emerge through the birth canal. However, other positions are possible. Some of the following fetal presentations can lead to a more difficult birth for you and your child. 

Cephalic Presentation

With a cephalic presentation, the baby’s body will face downward, with their head being the first body part to emerge into the world. This helps the baby breathe during the labor process and prevents problems such as birth asphyxia.

Vertex presentation

A vertex presentation is a subtype of cephalic presentation, and it occurs when the top of the head is the first part of the baby’s body to emerge.

Occiput posterior presentation

In this abnormal position, the baby will emerge head-first, but it will face upward. This requires more space for the neck and makes a safe delivery harder to accomplish. Babies born like this may require forceps to be extracted.


In a breech position, a baby will emerge leg, foot, or bottom-first. This is an especially dangerous presentation because it can deprive the baby of oxygen during delivery. This can lead to neonatal asphyxiation and lasting damage. There are three subtypes of breech birth positions.

Complete Breech

In this position, the baby’s feet will be the first part of its body to emerge. 

Incomplete Breech

In this position, the baby’s foot and bottom will be the first part of its body to emerge. 


In this position, the baby’s bottom will be the first part of its body to emerge. 


In a transverse position, the baby’s shoulder is the first part of their body to emerge from the birth canal. This exposes them to potential injuries to their nerves as doctors try to wrest them out of their position. They are also at risk of neonatal asphyxia if their head does not emerge in a timely manner.

With a difficult birth presentation, your child could be injured by your care provider during their delivery. If your baby is injured during birth, visit this link to talk to a birth injury attorney who can answer your questions and direct you to resources.

Can My Baby’s Birth Position Be Changed?

Your care provider can take some steps to change the position of your child into a safer one or to minimize risk. 

  • External cephalic version (ECV): In this noninvasive procedure, the baby’s bottom will be raised and pressure will be exerted on the uterine wall to help them shift their head into a more appropriate position. 
  • Movements by the mother: Specific movements done by the mother can sometimes help a baby shift their position. She may get on her knees and rock back and forth to help the baby move. The bridge pose, where you lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees raised may also assist the child’s motion. However, these movements sometimes don’t work.
  • Outside stimulation: Gentle sounds and lights could help to attract your baby. Placing headphones or a light on the lower portion of the mother’s body could potentially help them move downward. This also only works in some instances.

Your child’s birth position needs to be closely monitored by your doctor, especially if it is an abnormal one. Should you or your child be injured during their delivery, then you both may be entitled to compensation if medical neglect was the cause.

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