Pregnant woman sitting up on hospital bed looking down at her belly.

What’s the Difference Between Fetal Malposition and Malpresentation?

Differentiating Between Fetal Position and Presentation

While fetal malposition and fetal malpresentation may sound like they are the same, each has different characteristics. One thing they have in common is that when not appropriately addressed during the labor and delivery process, it can increase the risk of a birth injury. Here's what you need to know.

What is Fetal Malposition?

When the baby is in the womb, its position refers to how the baby is facing the mother's spine. Fetal malposition happens when the baby is not ideally positioned for labor in cephalic presentation. Cephalic presentation means the fetus is positioned head-down, facing the mother's back, with its chin tucked to its chest and the back of the head ready to move towards the pelvis.

Some examples of fetal malposition are:

  • Occiput Posterior Position - the baby's head is down, but it faces the mother's front instead of her back. This is identified as OP presentation. There are subcategories of this when the fetal head is to the left or the right (LOP, ROP). This position is known to slow or stop transit the fetus’ progress through the birth canal.
  • Transverse Position (Abnormal Lie) - the baby is sideways or when the shoulders or back are over the mother's cervix and the fetal head is not in the pelvis or engaged. This is also called the shoulder, or oblique, position. If labor begins in this setting, there is an increased risk of uterine rupture and fetal compromise if not addressed.

What is Fetal Malpresentation

When a baby is in the womb, presentation refers to the baby's body that leads out of the birth canal. Fetal malpresentation means that a baby may lead with a part other than the head engaged in the mother's pelvis.

Some examples of fetal malpresentation:

  • Breech Presentation - when a baby's bottom or feet, instead of the head, are in a position to come out first.
  • Face or Brow Presentation - when a baby's head is partially extended, its neck, brow, or face will be present first.
  • Compound Presentation - when a baby's hand or leg is presented next to the baby's head or bottom.

Complications from Fetal Malposition or Malpresentation

When a baby is in fetal malposition or malpresentation, the use of forceps or vacuum extraction may be necessary. When used properly, these tools can deliver a baby safely, however in some cases, too much pressure on the baby's head can lead to fractures, nerve damage, or brain damage.

Has Your Baby Suffered a Birth Injury? We Can Help.

When medical professionals don't act quickly when a baby is at risk of an injury due to fetal position, the result can be devastating or a fatal birth injury. Learning your baby has suffered a birth injury is difficult news.

You have the right to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligent medical care. Our experienced attorneys at The Beasley Firm, LLC have decades of experience representing mothers and their babies who've suffered a birth injury. We've secured record-breaking settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients, and we want to help you too.

Contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (215) 866-2424 for a free consultation.