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Pregnancy: Breech Presentation

Breech presentation occurs in approximately one out of every 25 full-term births. Breech presentation can be caused by excess or low amniotic fluid, a short or twisted umbilical cord, placenta previa, or a variation in the shape of the uterus. However, the cause of many breech presentations is unknown.

Western medicine's treatment for breech presentation is an External Cephalic Version (ECV), which is successful about 50% of the time. This method of manually turning the baby is usually done around week 37. ECV can be quite uncomfortable and carries the risk of fetal distress, ruptured membranes, and placental separation, sometimes resulting in the need for an emergency caesarean section.

The TCM Solution for Breech Presentation

The traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment for breech presentation has been used for thousands of years. It is successful 75% of the time and carries no risk to the mother or baby. It is generally done between weeks 32-36, when there is still enough room for the baby to turn, although it can be attempted later in pregnancy as well. The method involves burning the herb mugwort (a treatment called moxabustion) directly onto or over an acupuncture point on the foot. The reason this works is not completely understood, but it is believed to release hormones that stimulate the uterus and increase fetal activity, which encourages the baby to turn on its own. When successful, the baby will turn within 24 hours of the treatment. Sometimes only one treatment is needed, and sometimes it may take several treatments for the baby to turn. Patients are often given moxa "sticks" to take home so that they may continue the therapy in between treatments.

In a 1998 Italian study, 130 women with breech presentation had daily moxabustion treatments during the 35th week of gestation. The study showed a 75% success rate in turning the breech babies head down. In a Japanese study conducted in 2000, 357 women had daily moxabustion, with a very impressive 92.5% correction rate.

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