Acupuncture for Breech Babies by Dr Kirsten Wolfe


Discovering your baby is breech can be a devastating experience.  It can often leaving you feeling there is no choice but to have a Caesarean-section or an external cephalic version, which is where the baby is turned by manipulating the baby through the mother’s abdomen.

Luckily there is another alternative for turning a breech baby. Acupuncture & moxibustion is a simple, safe and relaxing treatment that gives the patient an option of natural birth.  This technique can also be used to reposition transverse or posterior presentations.  If treatment is unsuccessful, accepting a change of plan is often easier, knowing that at least all other options have been explored.

Acupuncture is an integral component of Chinese Medicine (CM), a wholistic system of healthcare continually practised and developed throughout Asia for many thousands of years.  Chinese Medicine has developed specialised treatment for women in promoting fertility, pregnancy care and postpartum recovery. Today CM care is increasingly valued in Australia, as it is in New Zealand, England, Germany and France where acupuncture is available in specialised antenatal clinics and maternity hospitals.

Pregnancy, child birth and postnatal recovery are viewed in Chinese Medicine as a window of opportunity to enhance and support the woman’s wellbeing. Conversely if adequate care is not taken the resulting problems may continue long after birth.  Value is therefore placed on offering preventive care to strengthen the mother and baby as well as dealing with problems as they occur during pregnancy.

Chinese Medicine offers a safe, effective alternative for treatment of pain and discomfort during pregnancy and a great alternative to western medicine drugs. Moreover, it provides an excellent complement to midwifery, doula, and obstetrical care.

A Cochrane review of several randomised controlled studies into breech presentation and moxibustion was completed and concluded approximately 70% of breech babies will turn using moxibustion applied to BL67. Further information on this study can be found in the Cochrane Library.

So what is moxibustion? “Moxa” is made from the herb Ai Ye (Chinese Mugwort) that has been used for over 2000 years in China.  The herb is compacted into a cigar shape and then lit and held above a specific acupuncture point to produce a focused radiant heat that stimulates the point.

During an Acupuncture treatment, the practitioner will take a comprehensive case history, make a diagnosis and will often do more than just moxa on BL67. We find it even more successful to treat the whole body; treatment often involves a moxa fan & massage on the sacrum to open up the hips, and various acupuncture points to treat the underlying condition of why the baby has turned breech.

After your Acupuncture session, self-treatment continues at home for 20 minutes a day for ten days straight.  It is important to continue with the treatment even once the baby turns, as it helps the baby stay in optimal position and become engaged.

It is recommended to have weekly treatment with your acupuncturist which also helps with birth preparation (which reduces labour time, reduces need for drugs or intervention, help the release of oxytocin, and ripens the cervix

How does it work?

Explaining from a Chinese Medicine perspective is often hard to convey in layman’s term. In brief, breech presentation is caused from Kidney deficiency, with Qi being deficient or stagnant.

Yang is activity & Yin is rest – to turn a baby you need activity.  Stimulating BL67 with moxa (the point where yang turns into yin) promotes yang in the body, therefore activity to move the stagnation, boost the Qi and turn the baby.

As we are working with the body and not manually turning or forcing the baby to turn, it is completely safe.  It can also improve the outcome of external cephalic version (ECV) if used at least five days before.

How it works from a western perspective is still uncertain. Some findings suggest that what is happening could be any of the following:

  • Adreno-cortical stimulation
  • Increased placental oestrogens and changes in prostaglandin levels
  • Increased fetal activity
  • Relaxation of the uterine myometrium (muscle layer) making a more favorable environment for the fetus to move
  • Increased blood flow to the uterine and umbilical arteries


Timing of treatment

The optimum time for turning a breech baby is most efficient at 34-36 weeks, earlier if you have a bicornuate (heart shaped) uterus.  Clinically, we have found it is still possible to turn up to 39 weeks, especially if it is your second baby.

Choosing your Acupuncturist

First and foremost please ensure that your acupuncturist is registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (AHPRA). This ensures your practitioner has a four year degree level of training specifically in acupuncture.  Secondly, an important factor is how much the acupuncture practice focuses on treating Women’s Health.  A practitioner who devotes most of his/her time to treating infertility, pregnancy & birth is most likely more knowledgeable in that area.  A practitioner who sees an occasional Women’s Health patient may not have enough experience or expertise to offer the best treatment available (which does not mean that they cannot be helpful at all).


Kirsten is available at Mornington Chinese Medicine from  2-8pm on Monday and Tuesday and 9am to 2pm on Wednesday.

138 Tanti Avenue, Mornington, VIC

03 5973 6886

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