Detection of breech presentation: Abdominal palpation and hand-held scanning by midwives

Joanna Keable, Kenda Crozier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The NHS Litigation Authority's ‘sign up to safety’ campaign aims to prevent undiagnosed breech birth and possible poor birth outcomes. An audit was completed following the introduction of hand-held scanning ultrasound examination.

Aims: The hand-held ultrasound was used by midwives for all women in labour and before induction of labour to confirm presentation.

Methods: A criterion-based retrospective audit, conducted over 6 months in 2016, with a sample of 2737 women.

Findings: The audit demonstrated that 22 breech presentations were detected when using the hand-held ultrasound before induction of labour or in labour. The audit standard of 100% of women receiving an ultrasound scan was not met, and potential reasons are explored.

Conclusions: The results support the use of hand-held ultrasound, as it did detect breech presentation before induction of labour or spontaneous labour and birth. Further work includes the audit of the reasons that hand-held ultrasound scanning was not used, to ensure that a targeted action plan can be created. Future research into midwifery values, cultural attitudes and the effectiveness of abdominal palpation is also needed, to develop the knowledge base on which scanning can be framed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-376
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Midwifery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2018


  • Ultrasound
  • Palpation
  • Audit
  • Breech
  • Birth
  • Midwives

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