Up to 25% of babies at some point in a pregnancy are in a breech position, but by 34 weeks most fetuses turn into a head-down, or vertex, position on their own. This is the normal and safest fetal position for birth. Delivering a baby in a breech position involves several risks to the infant. Most obstetricians in todays world therefore will opt to perform a caesarean section if the fetus has not turned on its own.
Moxibustion, the burning of the herb mugwort over an acupuncture point, in this case Bl-67 on the little toe, has been shown to be very effective to turn the fetus. Here is an excellent video where Dr. Lorne Brown, an acupuncturist from Vancouver Canada, demonstrates the procedure. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Brown at a seminar in Toronto last year where Jane Lyttleton lectured on Traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment of infertility.
Although this technique is simple and safe, there are instances where you would not want to turn a breech presentation. Zita West, in her book “Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth” warns that you would not want to turn a breech for the following situations: twin pregnancies (the cord may compress), previous caesarean for breech position (the mother’s pelvis may be too small too deliver vaginally), raised blood pressure, bleeding in pregnancy, and Rh negative (the mother’s and baby’s blood may mix).
Moxibustion over BL-67 appears to stimulate hormones that cause the uterus to contract. This causes the fetus to move. Studies in China claim a success rate of 80 to 90% in correcting the breech position with this moxibustion technique. Women should be closely monitored by their midwife or obstetrician during this process. Excessive treatment could over-correct and bring the fetus back into breech.