Birth Definitions

Malpresentation Definition


Malpresentation is a term used in the pregnancy and birthing industry to describe a fetus that is not in the correct position for delivery. The most common type of malpresentation is breech presentation, where the fetus is positioned bottom-first instead of head-first. Malpresentation can also refer to a fetus that is positioned sideways (transverse presentation) or with the head pointing backwards (posterior presentation).

While malpresentation can sometimes be resolved without intervention, it often requires medical intervention in the form of delivery by Cesarean section (C-section). This is because malpresentation can cause a number of complications during delivery, such as prolapsed umbilical cord, umbilical cord compression, and difficulty in delivering the head and shoulders.

Risk factors for malpresentation include a history of C-section, twins or higher-order multiples, maternal obesity, and a short cervix. Some of the complications associated with malpresentation include placental abruption, uterine rupture, and fetal distress.


Malpresentation should not be confused with malposition, which refers to a fetus that is not in the correct position within the uterus. For example, a fetus may be in the correct position for delivery (head-first), but may be lying sideways (transverse position) instead of vertically (longitudinal position). Malposition is often resolved without intervention, but may require medical intervention if it persists.

Some terms that are closely associated with malpresentation include the following: 

  • breech presentation
  • transverse presentation
  • posterior presentation.

This image shows how often the term ‘Malpresentation’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

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