Helping A Breech Baby Turn

Is it possible to help a breech baby turn? This is a question we often hear from moms hoping to have a vaginal birth. Moxibustion treatment can be a great option for these women.  Moxibustion is an adjunctive technique often used by acupuncturists in their treatments, and research has shown that a course of daily moxibustion over a specific acupuncture point on the baby toe is very successful at prompting a breech baby to turn.

At Jade we teach moms and their partners to self-administer moxibustion at home after completing a treatment with us in the office. A moxibustion for breech appointment lasts an hour during which the treatment plan is discussed, directions are provided, and a treatment with supervision is completed. Supplies, including a box of moxibustion poles and a snuffer, are provided for the family to take home. During the treatment, patients often provide feedback that they can feel some fetal movement. This is supported by research that the moxibustion stimulates fetal motility, and can be enough to turn the baby to cephalic presentation.

Here are a few key points that may be helpful for those considering moxibustion:

  1. Ideal timing is 33-34 weeks. Research supports that between 33-34 weeks of gestation is the best time for treatment. One 1998 study that treated at 33 weeks gestation reported a 75.4% success rate of babies in cephalic position at birth for the control group of 130 women. While 33 weeks is ideal for moxibustion, reality doesn’t always allow for treatment to take place then. A baby may be in a head-down position through 34 weeks before becoming breech, for example. That doesn’t mean that one should rule out moxibustion. As a pregnancy progresses there is generally less space for the baby to move, but each woman’s body is different and a baby may turn later in the pregnancy. In fact, babies can turn as late as 38-39 weeks, and if mom has had at least one pregnancy before, chances improve.

  2. Fetal movement during the treatment is normal. It is normal to experience some movement during and after the treatment. Though you may feel activity, it can be difficult to be sure if the baby has shifted to cephalic position. There is not always a strong sensation when the baby turns, and the turn can occur when mom is sleeping. Check in with your OBGYN or midwife to confirm position change.

  3. Positional exercises can be done in conjunction with moxibustion. There are many resources on maternal exercises, positions, and postures to encourage a baby to flip. These can be done in conjunction with your moxibustion course of treatment. Often the aim of these positions is to raise the pelvis above the head. For the yogi readers, downward dog pose is an example. While these are fine to use alongside moxibustion treatment, they aren’t necessary during the moxibustion treatment. Being in a comfortable, relaxed posture, such as in a recliner, is great.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us at Jade where one of our acupuncturists can provide you with more information.


Resources: 

  1. Cardini F, Weixin H. Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation. JAMA 1998; 280:1580-1584
  2.  Giovanni Maciocia, Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), 562.
  3.  Maciocia, Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine, 562.
  4.  Cardini F, Weixin H. Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation. JAMA 1998; 280:1580-1584
  5.  Debra Betts, The essential guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth (England: The Journal of Chinese Medicine Ltd.), 132-133.