Obviously a baby facing the wrong way is a major obstacle to a safe delivery, so it is important that the problem is rectified as early as possible.
While one in four babies will be malpositioned at some stage of pregnancy, by week 34 (or six weeks prior to delivery), most will have naturally adjusted in the womb. Nevertheless, the longer the baby has been in the wrong position, the less likely she, or he, is likely to self correct. Around 3% of babies are still in the breech position at the onset of labour.
Until recently, midwives were taught to manually turn the baby in the final week by massaging the mother’s abdomen.
Now, In Western countries the delivery method of a breech baby is almost exclusively with caesarean surgery of the lower abdomen.
Consequently, the skill of manually turning breech babies is now being lost. It is still commonly practised in many developing countries were medical equipment is lacking, although there are many risks involved. For example, the baby’s skull can become compressed during the manipulation causing cerebral haemorrhage, or the baby can become entangled in the umbilical cord and lose vital blood supply to the brain as it is being pulled. The baby’s delicate body can be injured during the final manual repositioning.
This would explain why, centuries ago, Traditional Chinese medical practitioners developed a specific technique, which is not only safe, and effective, but doesn’t require any expensive medical equipment. In fact, this ancient therapy has proven so successful that it is still commonly practised today.
Millenniums ago, Oriental bush doctors discovered the wonderful healing properties of a local plant called mugwort.
After experimenting with various methods, it was found that the best therapeutic effects occurred when that moss-like herbal substance was compressed and burnt. This technique became known as moxibustion.
In Japan, where this modality has been turned into an art form, there is now a special medical registration status for moxibustion practitioners, and some are real experts who have been practising for generations.
Fortunately, the technique used for the correction of breech position is very simple so the prospective mother, her partner, or a friend can easily be taught how to apply it.
A moxibustion stick shaped like a cigar is lit and used to warm up two acupuncture points called BL67 located on the lateral side of both feet. The moxa sticks are held above both points, without touching the skin until the woman can feel the heat. The sticks are then withdrawn for a few seconds and applied again above the same spot, withdrawn, and so on. This pecking technique is maintained for about 15-20 minutes once a day for 10 days.
The optimum time to begin the daily treatments is at 34 weeks gestation before the baby has grown too much, but it can be be successful until the 38 to 39 week.
The effectiveness of this method was confirmed in an Italian study conducted on 260 pregnant women who were in a breech position by the 33rd week. They were divided into two groups; one team received daily moxibustion for one week, while the other team didn’t receive any stimulation.
At the end of the study, 75.4% of women in the moxibustion group had their baby turned to the right position, compared to 47.7% in the control group.
But why do we apply moxibustion on that specific spot, and not on one of the other 364 acupuncture points?
According to the Chinese medical framework, the kidney energy is closely related to the uterus, and it is responsible for nourishing the foetus. A breech position occurs when the mother’s kidney energy is deficient. In acupuncture, the kidney and bladder meridians are Yin and Yang partners, so one channel can be used to treat the other, and vice versa.
While the Yin energy of the kidney nourishes the development of the foetus during the pregnancy, as the birth date approaches, the Yang energy must start increasing to turn the foetus, and prepare for the intense activity of birth. Being the last bladder point on its meridian, the acupuncture point BL 67, links with the first point of its Yin partner, the kidney channel. It acts as a bridging point where one form of energy is transformed into another. Applying moxibustion on that point facilitates that process.
That ancient technique proves once again that a life force is responsible for all physiological changes in the body, from the time of our first breath to the last.
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com