Turning breech babies with acupuncture
Since the late nineties there has been evidence to suggest that your breech baby can be turned to its optimal position for birth using moxibustion, a Chinese medicine technique.
It’s done by using moxibustion to warm the acupuncture point at the end of your little toe, the last point on your Bladder meridian!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that it all sounds like a bunch of hocus pocus. However, the Chinese have been doing this for women for centuries with great success. Ok sure, it’s not the kind of procedure you’re used to when it comes to all matters pregnancy but it’s natural, stress-free for you and bub, and more often than not, it works.
According to an Italian study in 1998 by Cardini & Weixin , 75% of breech babies will turn if the procedure is performed between 33 and 36 weeks gestation. In this study there were 260 women in their 33rd week of pregnancy. Half the women received moxibustion (commonly known as moxa for short) treatment for 30 minutes daily for 1-2 weeks, while the other half served as the control with no treatment. During the 35th week, 75% of babies had turned in the moxa group and 48% had turned in the control group.
Babies in the moxa group moved more, on average 48 movements per hour compared to 35 movements per hour in the control group. The women were followed to term and ultimately 75% of babies were born head first in the moxa group compared to 62% for the control group. It was concluded that moxa was a safe and effective method to convert a breech presentation.
Moxibustion uses a special herb called Mugwort, which has medicinal qualities that help to move energy deeply. It feels very warm to receive the treatment as the heat penetrates your body impacting the acupuncture point it’s being directed at.
Mugwort comes in different forms and grades of quality and is used for many reasons by an acupuncturist. In the case of a breech baby, typically the stick form is used by the pregnant lady at home after a consultation with her acupuncturist for ten days every day. She holds the stick above her little toe (near the outside corner of the nail bed) for twenty minutes on each foot. Typically the baby will turn on day four or day eleven of the course of treatment.
Your body from a Chinese medicine perspective
Science cannot explain how it works, however Chinese medicine can because it looks at the body from an entirely different perspective. Your body is seen in holistic terms as comprised of a system of meridians and organs. Meridians refer to energy channels that traverse your body carrying Qi (energy) and Blood. There are twelve main ones and these include the Bladder, Kidney, Liver, Gall Bladder, Heart, Small Intestine, Triple Energiser, Pericardium, Spleen, Stomach, Lung and Large Intestine. They connect to the organ or system they are named after and are three dimensional in nature, meaning they have emotions and spirits that relate to them as well.
Chinese medicine looks to the root cause of why something is happening and seeks to correct that imbalance. When a baby hasn’t turned, all of the pregnant woman’s signs and symptoms are taken into account. For example, a pregnant woman who gets frustrated easily, is moody, gets constipation, has tense muscles, wakes up during the night consistently between one and three in the morning would be considered to have a Liver disharmony. So along with treating her for breech baby, her acupuncturist would use acupuncture points to help calm her Liver, which would help to decrease her feelings of frustration, improve her digestion and relax her muscles.
Rebecca Mar Young is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist who specialises in treating pregnant women, mums and children. She is a mother of one and lives in Sydney. She is passionate about improving women’s health throughout their journey from woman to mother and beyond.
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