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Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Breech Pregnancy

Breech position

About 3-4 percent of all pregnancies will result in the baby being breech.1 Most babies will automatically turn into a head-down position inside the mother’s uterus around week 34-36 to get ready for birth. Breech pregnancy happens when the baby is positioned head-up in the woman’s uterus.

Breech position increases the risk for the baby to get stuck in the birth canal because the baby's head is the last part of its body to emerge, making it more difficult to get through the birth canal. It also increases the risk of umbilical cord prolapse; the umbilical cord is squeezed as the baby moves toward the birth canal, thus slowing the supply of oxygen and blood to the baby. Because of the risk of complications, most health care providers do not believe in attempting a vaginal delivery for breech position and do recommend Cesarean section (C-section) for the safety of mother and baby. 

 

Turning the Breech Baby with Acupuncture

UB67 for Breech Pregnancy

Acupuncture can be used as a complementary therapy for turning breech babies. UB 67 (Unibary Bladder 67, also marked as BL 67), an acupuncture point located on the outer corner of the nail of the small toe, is used for this purpose. Treatment involves moxibustion, the burning of a Chinese herb called mugwort (moxa, Artemisia Argyi Folium) over the acupuncture point.

A clinical study in 2003 showed 76.4% breeches successfully corrected with acupuncture treatments. The study concluded that acupuncture is a relatively simple, effective and inexpensive method for breech birth presentation.2

A randomized controlled trial study in 2004 showed that the proportion of Cesarean sections for breech presentation was significantly lower in the treatment group which received bilateral acupuncture plus moxibustion on UB67 than in the observation group.3

 

Acupuncture and Moxibustion Procedure

Moxa on UB67

Treatment is generally given between weeks 32 through 38, with week 34 - 36 being the optimal time. After 38 weeks, the baby may be too large to turn inside of the uterus.

The treatment procedure for turning a breech baby involves the application of acupuncture and moxibustion to UB 67 bilaterally for 20 minutes, acupuncture applied weekly and moxibustion applied daily.

On the first day of treatment, your acupuncturist will apply both acupuncture and moxibustion (using a moxa stick) at the clinic. After the treatment, your acupuncturist will teach you how to use a moxa stick over UB 67 and give you enough moxa sticks so you can perform daily moxibustion at home for 5 days.

Patients usually report that the baby becomes more active following or during acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, but it may take several days before they notice a significant increase in the baby’s movements. After the surge of baby’s activity, visit your doctor or midwife to have a scan to see if the baby has turned into the correct position. If the baby has turned within 5 days of moxibustion treatment at home, reduce the treatment time to 10 minutes until the 5 days has been reached to secure the baby’s position.

If the baby has not turned after 5 days, pause moxibustion for 2-3 days and monitor the position of the baby. After one week from the initial treatment, if the baby has not turned, the patient will receive another acupuncture plus moxibustion treatment at the clinic and perform daily moxibustion for another 5 days at home.

Between 36 and 38 weeks, if your baby has not turned, your OB doctor or midwife may suggest ECV (external cephalic version). ECV involves manually manipulating the baby through your abdomen to a head-first position, usually monitored with ultrasound. Acupuncture and moxibustion right before or after ECV can also increase the success rate of ECV.

 

 
 
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