Oriental Medicine and Breech Presentations

Maternal Health: Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Oriental Medicine and Breech Presentations:  The Important Role Acupuncture Can Play In Preventing a Caesarean Section.

Breech fetal presentation (where the position of the fetus is opposite how it would normally lie within the uterus) commonly occurs in pregnancies.   Left untreated a breech presentation may result in the delivery of the buttocks or a foot first, significantly increasing perinatal mortality risk and leading to a true medical emergency.  To avoid this caesarean sections may be ordered for mother’s who would otherwise prefer a normal vaginal delivery.   The preventative goal of Oriental Medicine and breech presentations is to manually version  or “flip” the baby as early as possible resulting in a normal position within the uterus and forestalling further complications and/or surgery.  Why is timing such a crucial part of the discussion?  The likelihood of flipping the baby decreases with gestational age (i.e it becomes harder to do so as the fetus ages and “locks into place”).

How common are breech presentations?

Incidence is correlated to gestational age with a much higher number of breech presentations early on in pregnancies.  However, the overall frequency drops to about 3-4% by the time the fetus is full-term.

Gestational Age, Weeks Breech, %
21-24 33
25-28 28
29-32 14
33-36 9
37-40 3-4

There Are Several Non-Invasive Techniques to Try to Turn a Baby

  • Pelvic Rocks
  • Forward-Leaning Inversion
  • Open Knee Chest Position
  • Breech Tilts
  • Chiropractic & Webster’s Technique
  • The Leg Hang
  • Hip opening exercises
  • Rebozo Sifting
  • Cold & Heat Stimulation
  • Standing release
  • External Cephalic Version (ECV)
  • Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Acupuncture and Moxibustion Treatment

Moxibustion is a traditional method of burning moxa sticks (usually made from herbal preparations containing mugwort) near an acupoint to cause a warm and painless sensation.  Moxibustion on the Zhiyin (BL67) point has been used extensively for abnormal fetal positions and is widely used to correct breech presentation in obstetrics. Through several recent randomized controlled studies, moxibustion and other acupoint stimulation methods such as acupuncture and laser stimulation have been found to be effective in treating breech presentations.  The proportion of Cesarean sections indicated for breech presentation was found to be significantly lower in treatment groups receiving care from a licensed acupuncturist.

Acupuncture correction of breech presentation is a relatively simple, efficacious and inexpensive method associated with positive results.  Moreoever, acute application of acupuncture plus moxibustion did not cause fetal distress as assessed by either fetal heart rate decelerations or changes in either short- or long-term variability.

Moxibustion for Breech Instructional Video

Learn how to use moxibustion to turn a breech baby (courtesy of Tuja Wellness and YouTube).

Reference Material

  1. Li X, Hu J. Wang X, Zhang H, Liu J., 2009, “Moxibustion and other acupuncture point stimulation methods to treat breech presentation: a systemic review of clinical trials”
  2. Neri, Airola, Contu, Allais, Facchinetti, & Benedetto, 2004, “Acupuncture plus moxibustion to resolve breech presentation”
  3. Habek, Cerkez, Habek &Jagust, 2003, “Acupuncture version of fetal breech presentation”
    Neri, Fazzio, Menghini, Volpe & Facchinette, 2002, “Nonstress test changes during acupuncture plus moxibustion on BL67 point in breech presentation”
  4. Cordini & Weixin, 1998, Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation”
  5. Li & Wang, 1996, Clinical observation on correcting malposition of fetus by electro-acupuncture”
  6. Tremeau, Fontaine-Ravier, Teurnier & Demouzon, 1992, “Protocol of cervical maturation by acupuncture”
  7.  Girerd, Philippe H MD. (Updated 2014, Jan 3).  Breech Delivery. Medscape. Retrieved 9/6/2015 from http://reference.medscape.com/article/797690-overview.
  8. Ways to Turn a Breech Baby.  Retrieved on 9/6/2015 from http://www.butterflybirth.com/ways-to-turn-a-breech-baby.

Tammy Lalonde Owner and Licensed Acupuncturist at Red Leaf Wellness

Tammy Lalonde, MSAOM BS LAc EMT-P

About the Author

Tammy Lalonde is the Owner and Licensed Acupuncturist at Red Leaf Wellness in Edmonton, Alberta with expertise in female and maternal health matters.  She is also a Critical Care Paramedic and has taken a lead role in treating many prehospital reproductive emergencies.  Tammy earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Oriental Medicine from California’s prestigious South Baylo University and her diploma in Emergency Medical Technology (Paramedicine) from Augustana University.   She is presently working toward a Fellowship with the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine.


 

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