by Serena Ma, ND, MS, LAc
Luckily, I'm not dealing with a breech baby. My little man is head-down and low in my pelvis, readying for his birthday! But this is an issue that does come up in 7% of pregnancies (at week 32).
As early as 32 weeks, the doctor or midwife may start to feel for the baby's position, and if breech is suspected, s/he may send you for an ultrasound to confirm whether the baby is head up or head down. (BTW - we want the baby to be head down for birth.)
In fact, acupuncture (well actually moxibustion) to turn a breech baby is quite successful! This is best done between weeks 32-37 when the baby is still small and mobile enough to move easily within the womb.
One study in the UK found that women who did moxibustion were 2x more likely to turn their breech babies than those who did not do moxibustion (Manyande 2009). Also moxibustion showed to have few side effects and was noninvasive compared to external cephalic version (ECV) - which is a procedure with manual turning of the baby on the mother's abdomen performed by a doctor.
At Serenity Natural Health, we have mom come in for an acupuncture appointment where we will perform acupuncture, moxibustion at the little toe, and teach mom-to-be how to do moxibustion at home.
Babies tend to move a lot during acupuncture!
And sometimes baby flips during treatment. But more often, baby may take its time, so it's important to do moxibustion at home for at least 15 minutes twice per day at each toe for at least 10 days or until baby turns. If you suspect that the baby has turned - double check with you obstetrician or midwife before continuing with moxibustion.
Moxibustion is safe, as it allows baby to turn on its own without stress or force. And it doesn't always work - I had one patient whose baby did not turn due to umbilical cord issues, so in her case, not-turning was a good thing!
Manyande A, Grabowska C. Midwifery. 2009 Dec 25 (6):774-80.