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<jats:sec id="sec001"> <jats:title>Background</jats:title> <jats:p>Breech presentation at term contributes significantly to cesarean section (CS) rates worldwide. External cephalic version (ECV) is a safe procedure that reduces term breech presentation and associated CS. A principal barrier to ECV is failure to diagnose breech presentation. Failure to diagnose breech presentation also leads to emergency CS or unplanned vaginal breech birth. Recent evidence suggests that undiagnosed breech might be eliminated using a third trimester scan. Our aim was to evaluate the impact of introducing a routine 36-week scan on the incidence of breech presentation and of undiagnosed breech presentation.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec id="sec002"> <jats:title>Methods and findings</jats:title> <jats:p>We carried out a population-based cohort study of pregnant women in a single unit covering Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. All women delivering between 37+0 and 42+6 weeks gestational age, with a singleton, nonanomalous fetus over a 4-year period (01 October 2014 to 30 September 2018) were included. The mean maternal age was 31 years, mean BMI 26, 44% were nulliparous, and 21% were of non-white ethnicity. Comparisons between the 2 years before and after introduction of routine 36-week scan were made for 2 primary outcomes of (1) the incidence of breech presentation and (2) undiagnosed breech presentation. Secondary outcomes related to ECV, mode of birth, and perinatal outcomes. Relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) are reported. A total of 27,825 pregnancies were analysed (14,444 before and 13,381 after). A scan after 35+0 weeks was performed in 5,578 (38.6%) before, and 13,251 (99.0%) after (<jats:italic>p</jats:italic> &lt; 0.001). The incidence of breech presentation at birth did not change significantly (2.6% and 2.7%) (RR 1.02; 95% CI 0.89, 1.18; <jats:italic>p</jats:italic> = 0.76). The rate of undiagnosed breech before labour reduced, from 22.3% to 4.7% (RR 0.21; 95% CI 0.12, 0.36; <jats:italic>p</jats:italic> &lt; 0.001). Vaginal breech birth rates fell from 10.3% to 5.3% (RR 0.51; 95% CI 0.30, 0.87; <jats:italic>p</jats:italic> = 0.01); nonsignificant increases in elective CS rates and decreases in emergency CS rates for breech babies were seen. Neonatal outcomes were not significantly altered. Study limitations include insufficient numbers to detect serious adverse outcomes, that we cannot exclude secular changes over time which may have influenced our results, and that these findings are most applicable where a comprehensive ECV service exists.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec id="sec003"> <jats:title>Conclusions</jats:title> <jats:p>In this study, a universal 36-week scan policy was associated with a reduction in the incidence but not elimination of undiagnosed term breech presentation. There was no reduction in the incidence of breech presentation at birth, despite a comprehensive ECV service.</jats:p> </jats:sec>

Original publication




Journal article


PLOS Medicine


Public Library of Science (PLoS)

Publication Date





e1003503 - e1003503