Women's Wellness Blog December 19, 2018

Acupuncture, moxibustion and breech position during pregnancy

Having an ultrasound and finding out your baby is breech, may tricker some initial concern with the soon-to-be parents who are planning for a natural birth.  If the baby isn’t in the head-down position, a caesarean section is usually scheduled, or an emergent caesarean if unsuccessful with maneuvers.  For that reason, families hoping for a vaginal birth are often eager to try various therapies, in hopes of position shifting.  Above all else, safety and efficacy of the therapy in question should always be priority.

Commonly what is done, is an external cephallic version, which is used to adjust the position, hopefully to head-down.  What many people are unaware of is the option for acupuncture and moxibustion, which is a heating technique often done with acupuncture, for breech babies.  This is a technique that when done by a licenced Naturopathic Doctor or acupuncturist, is a less-insasive, safe and effective option or addition to existing treatment.

When it comes to sorting through the research, randomized-controlled trials are required for research credibility.  Above that, a Cochrane Review sorts through the reasearch of many studies, often randomized-controlled trials, making Cochrane reviews the gold-standard of research.

A cochrane review conducted in 2012 looked at the benefits of acupuncture, moxibustion, external cephalic version, and postural techniques, such as lying supine with knees bent and pelvis elivated 12 inches.  Looking at eight trials involving 1346 women, several findings were assessed.  Most notably, when moxibustion was combined with acupuncture, fewer non-cephalic presentations were seen at birth (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.94), and fewer births by cesearean section (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.98) compared with no treatment1.  This same effect was not seen with moxibustion alone.  However when moxibustion was combined with postural techniques, there were fewer non-cephalic presentations at birth, compared to this postural technique alone (RR 0.26, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.56).  As an additional benefit, there was evidence to suggest moxibustion may reduce the need of oxytocin before or during labour, for women having vaginal deliveries.

The choice to have acupuncture and moxibustion, postural techniques or external cephalic version performed, should be a decision made by the expecting mother and her healthcare professional.  As Naturopathic Doctor, it is my job to educate, to allow for that informed decision to be made.

If you have any questions about the process of acupuncture and moxibustion, we’d love to hear from you.

Yours in health,

Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND

  1. Coyle ME, Smith CA, Peat B. Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech presentation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 May 16;(5). URL available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22592693.

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