How to turn a breech baby

What is a breech baby?

A breech baby is a baby lying with its buttocks or feet first in the uterus, rather than the usual head-first (cephalic) position.

Whilst it’s extremely common for babies to move into a whole range of positions during the course of a pregnancy, the majority of them will settle into the head-first position by week 36. Only approximately 3-4% of babies remain in a breech position beyond week 36.

Understanding and identifying a breech presentation is crucial for maternity healthcare providers, as it may necessitate special considerations and potential interventions to ensure a safe and successful birth.

Being told that your baby is breech can feel very worrying. You may be feeling distressed at the prospect of altering your birth plan so late in the day. You may also be worried for the safety of your baby. But you do have options…

What happens if my baby is breech?

The Royal College of Obstetricians has a really useful guide on the medical approach to breech babies. Following a scan to confirm the position of your baby, your consultant will offer you an External Cephalic Version (ECV). If this is unsuccessful you can then opt for a planned vaginal birth, or a planned caesarean birth.

There are benefits and risks associated with both these options so you should discuss them with your healthcare team so you can choose what is best for you and your baby.

What can I do to turn my breech baby naturally?

Moxibustion is a therapeutic practice with deep roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been used for thousands of years to alleviate various ailments and it is especially effective at turning breech babies. It is gentle, relaxing and non-invasive and of all the options it has the highest success rate for turning breech babies!

At its core, moxibustion involves the burning of dried mugwort, known as moxa, near specific points on the body. The heat generated by this smouldering herb stimulates the flow of energy within the body to promote balance and healing.

Traditionally the technique’s warmth and energy were thought to coax the unborn child into the preferred head-down position. We don’t really know exactly why it works – but it does!

What acupuncture point is used to turn a breech baby?

The technique involves a very simple procedure where a herb called ‘moxa’ is burned above a point on the little toe called Zhi Yin.

Can I do moxibustion on myself?

Your acupuncturist must carry out the first treatment and will then show you how to continue the treatments at home over the following 3-10 days.

Is moxibustion safe for me and my baby?

When carried out by a fully qualified acupuncturist, moxibustion is an entirely safe treatment which encourages the baby to turn without the need for any further intervention.

What is the success rate of moxibustion?

There are numerous studies showing success with moxibustion treatment in more than 70% of cases. Babies usually turn within 3-5 days and I think for those that don’t, there’s usually a reason – perhaps a structural reason for the baby’s position, or the timing is wrong.

When is the best time to have moxibustion?

The optimum time is week 33-35 of your pregnancy. This is early enough for the baby to have enough room to move, but late enough that they won’t move straight back again.

Frustratingly, breech presentations are only usually confirmed at around week 37, which reduces the chances of it being an effective option for you. If you or your midwife suspect that your baby is breech, then speak to your acupuncturist prior to your final scan so you can fully understand the options.

When should I not use moxibustion for a breech baby?

You should not receive this treatment if one of the following applies to your pregnancy:

  • Recent surgery, including a C-section
  • Low-lying placenta
  • Uterine or pelvic abnormalities such as fibroids or septum uterus
  • Insufficient or excessive amniotic fluids
  • History of any bleeding in pregnancy
  • Threatened premature labour
  • Any query about ruptured membranes
  • Any foetal distress
  • Any foetal abnormality
  • Significant maternal poor health such as hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • Rh negativity
  • If you need a caesarean for other reasons

Want to know more? Then why not book in for a free 30-minute telephone consultation to see if this treatment is right for you.

Image by Daniel Reche

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