Acupuncture for Breech Positioned Babies
It is likely that many of us know someone whose baby has been in breech position as the delivery date drew near. There are several reasons a baby may settle into a breech presentation but the cause is not fully understood. Most babies will settle into a head down position within the pelvis moving closer to the birth canal around week 34 to 36 of pregnancy. However, occasionally, the baby may settle into a breech position. This occurs in about 1 out of 25 full term births.
There are three types of breech position: frank, footling, and full (or flexed) breech. Women in a frank breech position may be given the option for a natural birth, but in a hospital setting where they may be monitored in case there are any complications necessitating a cesarean birth. If the baby is footling or full breech then a cesarean birth is advised. An ultrasound or an abdominal examination can establish the position of the baby a few weeks prior to the due date. It’s important to know that many breech positioned babies are delivered healthy and happy. But there is an increased risk of other complications which can require a cesarean birth. The earlier the baby is found in a breech position the more likely it is the baby will turn; some will turn on their own, however if that does not happen there are many things you can do to help!
Acupuncture to the rescue! Did you know that acupuncture and moxibustion are very effective in helping to turn a breech positioned baby? Moxibustion is the use of heat therapy; it is very warming, soothing, and when applied to specific points has many different beneficial effects on the body. The treatment is most effective when used in week 34 but can be effective as late as week 38 or 39. An acupuncturist using the acupuncture point Bladder 67, combined with a 10 day round of moxibustion and weekly acupuncture treatments can help bring the baby into the correct, optimal position: hands in lap, back to belly, chin to chest, and head down, also known as a well-flexed anterior position. In some instances the baby can even turn as late as day 9, 10, or 11. During the moxibustion, the baby will become more active. Even if the baby turns, the moxa is continued throughout the duration of the 10 day period to prevent the baby from turning back to a breech position.
Other interventions may be used in conjunction with the above treatments to help turn or reposition a breech positioned baby. A practitioner may place their hands on the mother’s abdomen externally and gently try to turn the baby. The baby is closely monitored during this version. Other helpful methods the mother may do at home include inversion poses to encourage gravity to help turn the baby.
In Chinese medicine when a baby presents as breech, theory suggests that there is a deficiency in the kidney qi, or energy. This is because the kidney has a strong relationship with the uterus and it’s ability to nourish the fetus. In order for the baby to turn and be in a proper position for a vaginal birth, the kidney yang must be strong. It is also helpful to encourage foods that are yang in nature and temperature. By including warm and cooked foods, the mother will help to encourage the growth of this yang.
It is also helpful for the mother to focus on positive posture in the final weeks of the pregnancy, keeping the knees lower than the hips. This allows gravity to help assist the baby in moving head down. Mama’s in the third trimester are encouraged to sit in a kneeling position with forearms on the floor or against a straight back chair with knees below the pelvis. It can also be helpful to rock and rotate the pelvis while on all fours and encourage gentle walking throughout the day.
If you are expecting and learn your baby is breech or in a posterior position, acupuncture is certainly worth trying!