Turning a Breech Baby Naturally with Acupuncture & Moxibustion
Updated: Jan 3
Acupuncture & Moxibustion play a part in reducing the number of breech presentations at term and contributes to a reduction in the number of cesarean sections which are often advised in breech presentation.
What is a "breech baby"?
At birth the safest baby position is head down. In other words the baby should come out head first. A breech presentation is when the baby is ready to come out feet first. Statistics show that quite a large number of babies are breech before week 30. Around this time, the baby’s head becomes big enough to encourage a downward flip via gravity’s help and to position himself nicely head down. Sometimes that doesn't happen and the baby is in a breech position.
What's the problem with a breech baby?
Many birthing professionals are concerned that a breech baby may suffocate as he is being born. Nowadays midwives and obstetricians would advocate Cesarean section or C-section.
For many women who have envisioned a vaginal or natural birth, a breech position can be a giant obstacle towards realizing their plan. Some doctors and midwives would assist in natural breech births, but it's best to do everything possible to avoid such a risk.
How does Acupuncture/ Moxibustion Help Naturally Turn Breech Babies?
Acupuncture involves the placing of sterile, hair-thin acupuncture needles into specific points on the body. The aim is to achieve Internal Balance and Outward Harmony and create a therapeutic effect.
According to Chinese Medicine some imbalance in the body can be the cause for the breech position. That's why Esther Hornstein L.Ac., your acupuncturist adopts a holistic approach to each situation addressing your entire health. Acupuncture supplies your body with the support it needs to encourage the baby head-down positioning.
Acupuncture helps correct muscular and ligament imbalances and helps make space for the baby to turn.
There can also be an emotional component involved in tightness of the hips or a misaligned sacrum.
In acupuncture, there is the basic belief that the body contains multiple pathways which run along different parts of the body, connecting different muscles and organs. They also correlate with different emotions.
It is believed in Chinese medicine that holding on to strong emotions long-term can damage and compromise the function of Pathways. It’s no coincidence that the pathway related to frustration and anger runs across the neck and shoulders and along the hips and sacrum. It’s for this reason that when it comes to sacrum misalignment, your emotional well-being is also taken into account and addressed.
Moxibustion is used to warm areas of the body with the intention of stimulating circulation and lymphatic flow. It also helps to smooth the flow of Qi and blood and expel pathogenic influences. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), qi is the vital energy that circulates through the body at all times.
What is it and how does it work?
Moxibustion (often called Moxa) is a well known and successful protocol added to acupuncture for breech babies. It involves warming a point on the small toe. It is one of the most tested points in Chinese medicine and has a success rate of anywhere between 69% and 85% in successive clinical trials. There are better results with this treatment before week 37 of pregnancy because after that the baby is bigger and can be too tightly wedged to move.
Moxa is made from an herb called mugwort. It is formed into a stick that looks like a cigar. We hold the smoldering end of the moxa stick above the acupuncture point close to the nail bed of the little toe. The first treatment is done with Esther your acupuncturist, after which she will teach you how to perform the treatment by yourself at home for the next 10 days. The scent of moxa is very distinct and many people find it to have a relaxing aroma.
Moxa gives a gentle warmth and should not feel too hot.
The acupuncture point Bladder 67 is empirically used for flipping a breech baby. Many theorize that a kidney or bladder qi disharmony is the cause for the mal-presentation and treating this point this way corrects the imbalance.
During the course of the treatment, patients feel that their baby is moving a lot more than usual as he reacts to the sensation of having more space. If you feel the baby turn you should not stop the treatment. You may ask your midwife to verify the baby’s correct position.
When Should I Receive the Treatment?
The ideal time to receive this type of treatment is between 32-34 weeks ( could be extended to 36 weeks). At this point in time, the fetus is not too big and there is generally sufficient time and space to help the shift in position happen. Treatment can sometimes begin earlier as 30-31 weeks if via ultrasound it was seen that the baby is breech and all other structure intact and in correct place ( i.e. No Placenta Previa) . We want to tackle the root issue as soon as possible if there are structural imbalances in the pelvis or other potential causative factors. Solving these imbalances earlier helps avoid the anxiety towards the end of the pregnancy.
Is Moxibustion and Acupuncture Safe during the Third Trimester?
All major studies done on moxa for breech presentations conclude that there are no adverse effects directly related to moxibustion and acupuncture technique for mothers or babies. Therefore it is claimed safe when performed by a licensed Acupuncturist who is experienced with prenatal care as there are some contra-indications.
Contra-indication to Acupuncture- Moxibustion for breech baby
There are some contra-indication, therefore please ask your midwife or obstetrician for agreement to proceed to treatment with the aim to turn a breech baby into a cephalic position
Here are a few contra-indications: Placenta previa, History of ante-partum haemorrhage, Known abnormality of the uterus or pelvis, Oligohydramnios, Rhesus antibodies.
What does the research say? Does it really work?
A number of studies prove the efficacy of Acupuncure & moxibustion for turning breech babies. Below is one of the studies published in a peer-review journal.
In 2019, the Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine journal published a research paper on the efficiacy of moxibustion for turning breech babies at 32-35 weeks.
The study included 93 women who were 32-35 weeks pregnant and had a breech presentation.
The women received moxa therapy on the acupuncture point Bladder 67 once a day for two weeks. If they were still breech after the 2 weeks, they did another round of moxibustion plus acupuncture treatment for three days.
Results: 62.4% of the women had their babies turn head-down and delivered vaginally. It was concluded that Acupunctue/ Moxa therapy could be an effective, low-cost treatment for turning breech babies.
For turning a Breech Baby, visit Esther Hornstein L.Ac., your Licensed Acupuncturist experienced in Woman's Health and Prenatal Care.
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