A lot of mamas come to me in their third trimester. While I treat women throughout their entire pregnancies, the third trimester can come along with the added bonus of exacerbated symptoms such as insomnia, heart burn, swollen ankles, and carpal tunnel-- all symptoms that will bring them in to my office. Yet regardless of why they are coming into my office, there is one questions that I always ask: “Is your baby head down?”
An ideal birthing position is with the baby head down (or head-first). While it is very possible to deliver “breech” positions (meaning butt-first, or feet-first) I live in a small town where not a single OBGYN will do this. That means, if your baby is breech, you will have a planned c-section in Santa Barbara.
Between 33-37 weeks, there are a few natural ways to encourage baby to flip to the head-down position. In Chinese medicine, we stimulate specific acupuncture points and use a method called “moxibustion” (or, “moxa”, for short). Moxa is a herb, artimesia vulgaris, that is burned like incense over specific acupuncture points to encourage the fetus to change position. Along with an acupuncture treatment, I teach women how to perform moxa on themselves so they can apply it daily until the baby turns. This procedure is incredibly safe and very effective*.
In addition, if moxa alone is not enough, there are a few, more natural tools, to help avoid a breech birth. The first is a series of exercises and subtle movements called spinning babies, which can be learned at spinningbabies.com. I also recommend that patients see a chiropractor that specializes in a technique called the “Webster technique” to encourage an easy flip.
In a western OBGYN practice, doctors have one method to turn the baby, called an external cephalic inversion (ECV). This rather intense procedure involves an injection of muscle relaxants, sometimes as strong as an epidural, to manually turn the baby. An ECV can be performed up to 42 weeks, though is most effective between 36-37 weeks. However, since it can be such an intense experience, many doctors will wait until 38-40 weeks, in hopes that the baby will turn on its own , without needing the intervention. It is for this reason that often times, OB’s won’t discuss the baby’s position with their patients until the pregnancy is quite far along. and often too far along for acupuncture and other natural methods to be effective.
Most of the time, when women are seeing a midwife as their primary pregnancy care, they are well aware of the baby’s position. However, I am consistently surprised at how often mamas who are using OBGYN care have no idea about the baby’s position until after it is too late to turn the baby naturally.
Natural methods to turn a breech are far less invasive, and can often be performed by the patient in her own home-- thus whenever I see a patient between 33-37 weeks, even if she’s coming to me for different symptoms, I always make sure she knows the position of her baby!
If you are interested in learning more about turning a breech, feel free to contact me, I’d love to help!
*note: There are, on occasion, pathological reasons that a baby is presenting in the breech position, and pregnancies should be closely monitored by a healthcare professional to insure there is no health risk to the mother or baby before any intervention takes place.