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Breech Births: Early Water Breaks Place Infants At Greater Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 5.5 percent of births are breech deliveries. In a breech delivery, the baby is not born head-first but instead delivers feet- or knees-first. Although breech births often result in potentially dangerous complications, a new study concluded that the risks are even greater when a mother's water breaks early.

Also known as "premature rupture of membranes" or "PROM," an early water break can leave the unborn child in a vulnerable position inside the uterus. The new study found that babies in breech position are more likely to suffer from loss of amniotic fluids, infections, immature organs, and premature delivery. These conditions can also raise the risk that a baby could die in utero or shortly after birth. 

In most pregnancies, when a baby is positioned head-down, the head can help keep amniotic fluid inside the uterus when a mother's water breaks early. But this is not the case when the baby is in a breech position.

While PROM can happen naturally, medical malpractice is often involved. For example, doctors can cause PROM by conducting too many late-term exams. After a mother's water breaks, doctors have to respond immediately to prevent further harm to the child.

As the author of this study noted, the research makes it even more crucial for doctors to be vigilant when treating a mother who may be at risk for a breech delivery. The Chicago Tribune quoted the author as saying "This makes 'breech' an even more important part of patient counseling. When we see a breech baby, I tell my students to pay extra attention."

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Early breech births are more likely to face other complications, study finds," Leslie Mann, Nov. 14, 2012

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