Turn a Breech Baby with Acupuncture & Moxibustion (moxa)
Breech Baby Acupuncture Introduction
The breech baby presentation is a complication of pregnancy that affects 7% of pregnant women at 32 weeks of pregnancy. At this stage, many women seek alternative treatments such as acupuncture for breech babies to avoid C-section delivery. The research is promising but is not proven effective at this point in time. Although commonly recommended in other countries by obstetricians and hospitals, Australia awaits acupuncture for breech babies to be proven effective before being medically recommended.
About Breech Babies
Pregnancy is a normal part of life for women who want to (and can) have babies. For most women, it is a joyful time to experience the miracle of bringing new life into the world, and birth is incident-free. Pregnancy does come with complications, which can make the experience difficult and painful. One of such is when the unborn child presents as breech.
In normal foetal development, the head of the foetus turns down towards the vaginal canal in the last trimester of pregnancy. 25% of babies are breech at 28 weeks, but by 32 weeks, this percentage drastically reduces to only 7%. However, some babies remain “right side up” at term, with their buttocks or feet facing towards the cervix. Babies who present like this are called breech babies. In Australia, 3-4% of full term pregnancies are a form of breech, and of those about 0.4% go through a normal vaginal birth.
There are different variations on breech pregnancies. In a complete breech, the baby’s legs are folded up; in a frank breech, they are not folded but are straight in front of the body. In incomplete breech babies, the feet face down towards the cervix.
Breech deliveries used to be more common in the past, but more women opt for a caesarean section if the baby is still breech at full term and so the practice is dying out. Vaginal breech birth is risky, to both the mother and the baby.
Alternative Methods of Turning Breech Babies
While there are manual outpatient procedures that can turn the breech baby, some mothers are turning to the Chinese method of moxibustion to help their babies turn naturally.
There are several reasons why an expecting mother would choose moxibustion:
- Manual methods have not worked.
- They want a safe home birth.
- Due to the recommendation of their doula or birth guide.
- They are alternative health enthusiasts.
Moxibustion is an acupuncture method that makes use of natural herbs and postural positions to facilitate the turning of the baby. In this procedure, the mother lies down comfortably. The herb moxa (mugwort) is lit and the smoking herb held over several acupuncture points. Moxa and the heat of the herb stimulate the nerves at the several points. The most effective point for turning breech babies is the outer foot.
In theory, the heat and stimulation of the herbs encourage movement of the baby, who then turns of their own accord.
Mothers should always seek out trained acupuncturists who are trained in moxibustion if they choose to try the procedure.
Acupuncture Research and Breech Babies
The current research on acupuncture and turning a breech baby is currently not strong. The research shows some promising results but not enough to be included in practice guidelines for obstetricians in Australia. Interestingly, in New Zealand, the practice guidelines recommend moxibustion for breech babies and moxibustion is commonly used in Chinese hospitals.
History of Moxibustion for Turning Breech Babies
The first mention of moxibustion for difficult pregnancies was in 1226, in a book called Moxibustion Methods for Emergencies by Wenren Qinian. Moxibustion and acupuncture have been used in China for breech babies, within the hospital system, for decades.
What is Involved in an Acupuncture Appointment?
The initial acupuncture session for breech babies includes a consultation to determine your health from a Chinese medicine perspective. The outcomes may support acupuncture and moxibustion. After the consultation, the Chinese medicine techniques and recommendation will be explained then applied. Open conversation is encouraged throughout the session.
Claiming Your Acupuncture Session on Private Health Insurance
If you have private health insurance in Australia, you may be able to claim your acupuncture session. Check with your health fund provider for more information. Bring your health insurance card along to the session. If available to you, the service can be claimed on the spot through the HICAPS machine.
This method is not considered proven effective in Australia, but the mothers who have been helped by it swear by the moxibustion method. Mothers should also know that some babies would invariably be born breech no matter the method used, and plan towards a birth plan that will be safest for both them and their unborn babies. The process of acupuncture and moxibustion has been used for a long time and is commonly practised in other countries at this time in pregnancy. Acupuncture can be claimed on private health insurance in Australia.
John McDonald, S. J., 2017. The Acupuncture Evidence Project : A Comparative Literature Review (Revised). [Online]Available at: https://www.acupuncture.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/28-NOV-The-Acupuncture-Evidence-Project_Mcdonald-and-Janz_-REISSUED_28_Nov.pdf[Accessed 28 Feb 2018].
Kanajura, Y., 2001. Moxibustion treatment of breech presentation. [Online]Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11321479[Accessed 26 02 2018].
myVMC, 2017. Birth Statistics. [Online]Available at: https://www.myvmc.com/pregnancy/birth-statistics/[Accessed 25 F02 2018].
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