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OBJECTIVE: To analyse the outcome of referrals for external cephalic version (ECV). DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study of prospectively collected data. SETTING: Major university hospital, UK. SAMPLE: Women with non-cephalic presentation at term and no prior caesarean, referred to a specialist clinic. METHODS: Details of referrals, ECV attempts, and perinatal outcomes were prospectively collected and analysed. Multivariate binary logistic regression models were created to determine independent predictors of ECV success, reversion, and spontaneous version. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: External cephalic version success rates, predictors of success and cephalic presentation at birth, and perinatal outcomes. RESULTS: Three thousand eight had confirmed breech presentation; 2614 women underwent ECV. Ineligibility for ECV occurred in 117 breech presentations (3.9%), and 297 eligible women (10.2%) declined it. ECV was successful in 1280 (49.0%, 95% CI 47.0-50.9%) (40% in nulliparous women; 64% in others); 1234 (97.3%) were cephalic at birth. Spontaneous version after failure occurred in 4.3% and was more common in multiparas (aOR 2.47, 95% CI 1.43-4.26) and those with a posterior fetal back (aOR 6.09, 95% CI 1.90-19.53). Reversion after successful ECV occurred in 2.2%. In women with a successful ECV whose fetus remained cephalic at birth, 85.7% delivered vaginally. The corrected perinatal mortality of the ECV cohort was 0.12%. CONCLUSION: External cephalic version has a low complication rate and is effective for most breech presentations, enabling vaginal birth and avoiding caesarean section. TWEETABLE ABSTRACT: External cephalic version can safely be performed with most breech presentations.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





493 - 499


Breech, caesarean section, external cephalic version, Adult, Breech Presentation, Delivery, Obstetric, Female, Humans, Logistic Models, Pregnancy, Retrospective Studies, Term Birth, Treatment Outcome, United Kingdom, Vagina, Version, Fetal