What is the Fetal Position?

Team Peanut5 months ago4 min read

When you consider how much a fetus moves around in your uterus, it’s hard to imagine there’s just one fetal position. After all, all those kicks, punches, and twists must mean they’re changing position pretty often, right? Well yes. But generally speaking, there is one position your baby will be most comfortable in both in utero and once they’re born. And that’s what’s called the fetal position. Keep reading for the lowdown on your little one’s favorite pose.

Fetal Position

In this article: 📝

  • What does the fetal position mean?
  • What is a normal fetal position?
  • How to tell fetal position
  • What does it mean if you sleep in the fetal position?
  • Is it good to sleep in fetal position?

What does the fetal position mean?

So, what is the fetal position? Doing their best impression of a beach ball, baby’s spine is curved, with their chin tucked to their chest, arms curled to their torso, and legs bent up to their abdomen.

You might see your baby curled up like this during an ultrasound scan, and they’ll probably love being curled up in fetal position for a snooze in the early newborn days.

What is a normal fetal position?

The fetal position is considered the optimal position for birthing your baby vaginally, and most babies will settle into this position with their head down sometime after 32 weeks of pregnancy. This upside down fetal position is called cephalic presentation.

In this position, there can be some variation in which way the baby is facing. Ideally, your baby will be facing towards your back with their spine at the front of your bump. This is thought to position them for a smoother birth. Their chin is tucked down, the back of their head is facing the pelvis, and movement through the birth canal is more straightforward than if they were facing forwards. Even if your baby is facing forwards, they may turn themselves around during the first phases of labor.

How to tell fetal position

If you’re wondering how to determine fetal position, never fear: It will be monitored at your prenatal appointments throughout your third trimester. Your physician will feel your baby bump to try to identify your baby’s head, back, and bum, to tell which way baby is lying. If you frequently feel very strong kicks in one area of your abdomen, it’s likely that’s where your baby’s feet like to hang out.

So, if the upside down fetal position is the most common position before birth, what other position might your baby be in? There are a few other baby fetal positions your little one might be in. They include:

Frank breech

Your baby is bottom down with their legs straight up and their feet near their face.

Complete breech

Your baby is bottom down with their legs bent at the knees (kind of like the fetal position but the other way up).

Footling breech

Your baby’s feet are the first part into the birth canal.


Your baby is lying horizontally across your abdomen.

If your baby doesn’t appear to be in the fetal position with their head down towards the end of your pregnancy, your doctor might talk to you about trying to turn the baby manually. This is a procedure called an external cephalic version (ECV). Using massage and firm pressure, your doctor will try to help your baby maneuver into the ideal position for vaginal birth.

But hold up, it’s not just babies who like the fetal position! Here’s the answers to some other burning questions:

What does it mean if you sleep in the fetal position?

Ever wondered why do I sleep in fetal position? Fetal position sleep is common and is a position often sought for comfort, protection, and warmth, even in adulthood!

Is it good to sleep in fetal position?

Sleeping in a loose fetal position, with your limbs not tucked in too tight, can be a healthy way to sleep. It can help reduce snoring and back pain, and is great during pregnancy when it’s best to avoid sleeping on your back.