The Use of Moxa and Acupuncture for Breech Presentation
Approximately 3-4% of babies settle into breech position towards the end of pregnancy. In general, breech position is described as any position where the baby's bottom is facing downwards as opposed to vertex position, where the baby is head down. As far as birthing options go, in the US, a babe that remains in this bottom-down position will likely be delivered by cesarean section (over 90% are). Many birthing people will opt to attempt to flip the position of their baby by undergoing a procedure called an ECV (external cephalic version) at around 37 weeks. An ECV is where an OB will place their hands on the belly and attempt to manually shift the baby's position, generally this procedure is performed in the operating room with epidural anesthesia.
But what can you do prior to 37 weeks if your baby is breeched? Here’s where acupuncture and moxa come into the picture!
In Chinese Medicine there is always a pattern or cause for unwanted symptoms or, in this case, an unfavorable fetal position. Your acupuncturist will take into account your amniotic fluid levels, body positioning, tension in muscles and ligaments, and emotional factors to come to a diagnosis and tailor make a treatment specifically for you. Very likely, a combination of acupuncture points, moxa, and movement suggestions will be offered.
Acupuncture is an incredibly effective modality for addressing imbalances in the pregnant body. Strategically placed acupoints can assist in opening up the abdominal region, an area that is referred to as the Dai Mai, or belt vessel, in Chinese Medicine. By opening up and relaxing this area of the body, the baby has more space to move around and change their position. If it appears that fluid levels may need to be increased, acupoints that encourage an increase in amniotic fluids will be used. Acupuncture is also brilliant at helping to ease stress and anxiety that may be creeping in towards the later weeks of pregnancy.
In Chinese Medicine a technique called moxibustion, commonly referred to as moxa, is frequently used to assist in turning a breech or poorly positioned baby. Moxa, which is made from the dried leaves of Ai Ye (Mugwort), is formed into what looks like a thick incense stick. During treatment, the stick is burned near a specific acupoint, UB 67, which is located on the corner of the pinky toenail. This point is at the very end of the channel which runs all the way from the inner corner of the eye, over the top of the head, down the back body to the outer aspect of the foot… where UB 67 is located. Moxa creates more space in the uterus and it’s warmth permeates and invigorates the channel encouraging the baby to flip to an optimal, head down position for birth.
The practice of moxa is very soothing and comforting. Many pregnant patients will begin to feel their baby start to move around while the moxa is being applied. While the use of moxibustion can be done at any time during the late stages of pregnancy, the ideal time to aid in turning a breech babe is between 32-36 weeks. A recommended course of this treatment is 15-20 minutes, two times per day for up to 10 days, or until the baby turns if sooner than 10 days. The technique can be taught to patients so that they can perform moxa at home.
Jessica is a trained and experienced doula and prenatal yoga instructor. She will observe your posture and positioning when you come in for treatment and can offer some helpful suggestions. Simple movements, yoga poses and positions can aid in creating space in the body so that your babe has room to turn and they can even give you some much needed physical relief during those long, last weeks of pregnancy.
If you find that your babe is in a breech position as you approach 32 weeks, come in for an acupuncture session. The combination of acupuncture, moxa and movement are safe, comforting and quite effective.
Written for Five Seasons Healing