Is it Medical Malpractice to Perform a Breech Birth Vaginal Delivery Instead of a Cesarean Section?

Steven E. North, Esq.
Shari James, Paralegal

Taboo as it may seem, breech birth deliveries may be making a comeback.

The breech birth position, where the baby's legs rather than its head are closest to the birth canal, may allow for a traditional delivery although it has been frowned upon for many years in favor of a cesarean section - the surgical removal of the baby from the womb. Current medical practices now approve of a vaginal delivery provided that the physician is very experienced and the birth is carefully monitored.

In a June 10, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, "A Turnaround In Thinking On Delivering Breech Babies", a comparison of the gynecological practices of Germany and the United States was discussed as it related to vaginal delivery and breech babies. Germany has seen an almost 10% increase in the amount of vaginal breech births in recent times.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, breech presentations occur in 1 out of every 25 births. After the release of the well-publicized "Term Breech Trial" study in October, 2000 in The Lancet, (Volume 356, Issue 9239) that reported that a cesarean section delivery was safer than a breech delivery, many hospitals across the globe stopped offering the breech delivery as an option. Health care providers feared complications from the procedure and potential medical malpractice claims. Vaginal deliveries from breech presentations were essentially abandoned by most physicians because it required a higher level of experience, training and special technique.

The article cites Dr. Martin Gimovsky of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey who believes that vaginal breech births should be revived, since cesarean section births impose a risk of death in an expectant mother. Facilities such as the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland started offering vaginal breech birth deliveries in an effort to lessen the cesarean section delivery rate.

Breech birth, though considered a bit more risky, is considered to provide a better birthing process than a cesarean section. With the proper information and required informed consent to the expectant mother, a breech birth delivery can prove to be a better experience. As with any other medical procedure, physicians must ensure that they have the requisite training and expertise to perform the procedure so as to limit their liability for a medical malpractice claim.