When women give birth naturally, their babies come out headfirst. This is because when they are in the womb, the baby is upside-down. For some women, this is not the case, and the baby is in the head-up position, known as non-vertex presentation, or more simply, breech. For these women, unless the baby can be turned, they will likely need to undergo a cesarean procedure to surgically birth the baby. A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery, and requires the new mother to stay in the hospital for several days. As it also takes weeks to recover, it should be avoided if at all possible. So, what to do if your baby has not turned upside down?
Ideally, the issue can be identified early – in weeks 29 – 32. At this stage, about 15% of babies are breech. This is the time to act. Though about half of these babies will naturally turn upside down by week 38, it is best not to leave it to chance. If your baby has not turned by week 32, acupuncture, herbs and moxa can help.
With acupuncture, the mother-to-be is allowed to rest on her side. The acupuncturist then employs points that encourage the baby to turn. This is also a great time to address any other issues the woman is dealing with. Lower back pain is a common problem, as are digestive issues.
Many times, when a baby has not turned, it is a sign that the mother’s energy needs strengthening. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the kidney chi is responsible for reproduction. If the mother’s kidney chi is weak, she is more likely to have a breech presentation. If she is under the care of an acupuncturist when she gets pregnant, and her kidney chi is known to be weak, it is very important that she continue treatments and herbs throughout her pregnancy to help avoid a breech presentation.
Moxa is also used to help encourage a baby to turn. This involves using a moxa stick made primarily of dried Chinese mugwort leaf. The stick is lit at one end and burns slowly like incense. It is then used to warm a point on the foot that helps the baby to turn. It may sound far-fetched, but numerous studies show its effectiveness.
One such study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in November, 1998. The study divided 260 women with breech presentations in their 33rd week of pregnancy into two equal groups. 130 received moxa treatments and 130 did not. Two weeks later, 75% of the fetuses in the moxa group had turned compared with 48% in the other group. Women whose babies had not turned were then offered external cephalic version treatments. This procedure is done in a hospital and involves a doctor massaging the uterus to move the fetus into a head-down position. It can be quite uncomfortable, though it is a good last resort to avoid a cesarean procedure.