It is expected that a baby will adopt a head-down position in the mother's pelvis by the 36th week of pregnancy. If however, the baby presents a body part other than the head to the pelvic outlet, it is said to be in a breech position.
The Orthodox Approach
Most obstetricians recommend that breech babies be delivered by Caesarean section. But, like any major surgery, there are risks involved with this method of delivery. Risks include a reaction to anaesthesia, respiratory complications, premature birth, postoperative infection, wound healing problems, and injury to the mother's internal organs or the baby.
External Cephalic Version (ECV) may be used to turn a baby, but this procedure cannot be carried out before the 36th to 37th week of pregnancy. It also carries a risk of complications such as detachment of the placenta, premature rupture of the membranes, knotting of the umbilical cord, uterine bleeding, and reduction of the foetal heartbeat, all of which will result in an urgent Caesarean section.
The IMI Approach
With all these potential problems it is little wonder why many women prefer vaginal births. Vaginal births are more natural and the recovery time is much faster. A woman who delivers vaginally can be discharged on the second or third day but a woman who delivers by Caesarean may need to stay in hospital for up to 14 days.
At IMI, our primary objective is to give women the opportunity to deliver their babies as naturally as possible and to avoid Caesarean births unless absolutely necessary. Osteopathy, acupuncture, and moxibustion are safe and natural ways to turn a breech baby. According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture has been proven through controlled trials to be an effective treatment for turning a breech baby.
Osteopathy is one approach that can help in turning a breech baby. Many important components of the mother's body, such as her posture and the tensions in her spine, the surrounding muscles, and uterine ligaments need to be in balance in order for the uterus to properly align and relax, thus allowing the baby to move around as it would like and to settle into a comfortable and optimal position for pregnancy, engagement, and labour.
A uterus that is tight or held in a slightly awkward position due to the ligaments, muscles, or pelvic and spinal mechanics can interfere with the positioning of the baby and may lead to malpresentations. An osteopath will treat this condition by releasing tensions surrounding the uterus, the ligaments, and soft tissues in the area, as well as tensions/restrictions through the pelvis, low back, hips, and pelvic floor. Releasing these tensions is thought to give more space and freedom to the uterus and baby, allowing it to turn more easily.
These techniques are gentle and the comfort of the mother and baby is always assured.
Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into specific areas on the body in order to help relax the muscles and tendons. This painless treatment enables the baby to turn more easily in utero.
Moxibustion is an ancient technique that uses gentle herbal heat on specific points of the body to increase vital energy and blood circulation. It can be used to treat of a wide range of conditions. For breech babies, this herbal heat is applied near a point on the mother's little toes to promote foetal activity. In one study moxibustion was shown to be more effective in turning breech babies than the control group (Cardini et al., 1998).
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a baby adopts a breech position if there is a deficiency of "active" or "yang" energy. Moxibustion promotes "yang" energy and provides momentum for the baby to turn into a more favourable position.
The optimum time to apply moxibustion is between 34 and 35 weeks, before the baby is too large. However, it can also be used later on in the pregnancy.
After completing a 10-day treatment cycle, an ultrasound is recommended to check the position of the baby.
1. Cardini, F. et al. (1998). Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(18):1580-1584.