Adventures in breech baby turning

Breech presentations affect 4% of pregnancies but most of the time the baby turns hisself/herself by the 36th week. If he/she continues to be breech, however, most OB’s advise a cesarean (because unfortunately even though breech vaginal births are just a variation of normal, these deliveries have become a lost art….more on that later). Therefore it’s worth trying to get the baby to turn if you can.

First up, do what’s free:

1) Inversions and breech tilts. Easier said than done when you have heartburn pregnancies. I found the best time was right when I got up in the morning before I even had a sip of water.

2) Underwater handstands.

3) Cold peas, music and light. Not necessarily all at once or in that order. Place anything cold on your belly where the baby’s head is. Using a carton of ice cream and a spoon makes this experience more enjoyable for you. The idea is that the baby will move their head down and away from the cold to be more comfortable. Music and light are used to peak the baby’s interest resulting in movement. Place the light and/or music near the baby’s head to get their attention, then move slowly down to just above your pubic bone. Try different kinds of music, you never know what they will respond to. Try these during one of the baby’s more active times of the day/night.

Is someone still rather comfy? Not free but high rates of success:

4) Chiropractic adjustments and the Webster’s Technique.

Larry Webster, D.C., of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, developed a technique that enabled chiropractors to reduce stress on the pregnant woman’s pelvis leading to the relaxation of the uterus and surrounding ligaments. A more relaxed uterus makes it easier for a breech baby to turn naturally. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reported and 82% success rate for the Webster Technique.

5) Acupuncture/moxibustion. Both acupuncture and moxibustion work to balance the Chi (i.e. “vital energy”) in the body. Acupuncture balances the Chi by inserting needles into specific points on the meridians. The breech turning point is one of the most tested points in Chinese medicine and has a success rate of anywhere between 69% and 85% in successive clinical trials (1,2,3).

Moxibustion balances the Chi by stimulating acupuncture points with a hot herb called mugwort. The moxibustion stick does not directly touch the skin at the acupuncture point, but is used to warm and stimulate the point.

According to an article in “The Journal of American Medicine” (JAMA) moxibustion is found to be effective in stimulating fetal movement and in correcting breech presentation.

Francesco Cardini, M.D., a private practice physician in Verona, Italy, and Huang Weixin, M.D., of the Jiangxi Women’s Hospital in Nanchang, China, found that 75 percent of fetuses in the group treated with moxibustion changed their position to the correct “head-first” position compared to 48 percent of the fetuses in the control group. The researchers found that there was more fetal activity on average for fetuses in the treatment group.

All 260 study participants from the outpatient department of two hospitals in Jiangxi Province, China, were pregnant for the first time and in the 33rd week of pregnancy. All participants had fetuses in the breech position, which was determined by ultrasound.

The primary acupuncture point used for the treatment of breech presentation is located on the outside corner of the nail of the little toe. This point connects with the uterus through an internal meridian (or pathway). The heat of moxibustion stimulates the baby to move and encourages it to turn. Treatment is most effective if started in the 33rd or 34th week of pregnancy, but can be started as early as the 32nd week.

Many women report that after a few minutes of treatment they notice the baby beginning to kick and move. It often takes several hours for the baby to turn, and may take several days of treatment to be successful.

Here is a video of the moxa treatment.

A few more things worth trying:

6) Hypnotherapy. “Hypnotherapy may help pregnant women turn their breech baby around to the normal head-first, or vertex, position. A researcher at the University of Vermont, Burlington, used hypnosis with one hundred pregnant women whose fetuses were in the breech (feet-first) position between the thirty-seventh and fortieth week of gestation.

The intervention group received hypnosis with suggestions for general relaxation and release of fear and anxiety. While under hypnosis, the women were also asked why their baby was in the breech position.

The study, which appeared in the Archives of Family Medicine (Vol. 3, Oct. 1994 Hypnosis and Conversion of the Breech to the Vertex Presentation Lewis E. Mehl, MD, PhD Dept. of Psychiatry Univ. of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington) reported that 81 percent of the fetuses in the hypnosis group moved to the vertex position, compared with 48 percent of the control group. Not surprisingly, hypnosis was most effective for the women motivated to use the technique.” – Natural Health Magazine, November-December 1995

Those of you in the Chicagoland area can contact Tanya McHale for professional hypnotherapy at Or try Hypnobabies “Turn Your Breech Baby” available for immediate download here:

7) Homeopathics. Homeopathic Pulsatilla in 200C potency or higher. Have the mother take one dose every 3 days while doing tilt exercises. (Check with your Homeopathic doctor)

8) Massage. For self-massage, start with your left hand at the bottom of the abdomen and your right hand just above it. Move move your hands clockwise around the right side of your tummy. As your right hand reaches the top of your abdomen, slide the left one over your right and move it down the left side of your tummy. Your left hand leads as you you come full circle, continuing clockwise. Massage gently as you would to apply lotion. Massage for ten minutes or more up to several times each day.

You can also find a massage therapist that will incorporate some breech turning work into their Pre-natal massages.

9) Visualizing the baby moving down with the head very deep in your pelvis, several times a day; especially in conjunction with positions and exercises below.

10) Swimming as often as possible. This keeps your body and pelvis loose and relaxed. Do in conjunction with headstand below if you have help.

11) Clothespin – place on the small toe of each foot at the outside corner of the toenail; sideways so that the toenail and toepad are stimulated for 30 minutes per day, this is an acupressure point that is a “moving down” point. You can also do this with just finger pressure as you remember to do it.

12) Motion Sickness band – place with the bead four fingerwidths above the inner ankle bone – another acupressure point that is used for stimulation of the uterus. Do not use this point if you are experiencing any pre-term labor.

13) Glass of orange or other juice – follow this with a side-lying position with your hips positioned higher than your feet. Babies move more after a sugar high!

14) Pelvic Tilt– with an ice pack on the top of your tummy on an empty stomach, 10 minutes twice a day. Do this while lying on your back on the floor with knees flexed and feet on the floor with three large pillows placed under your buttocks. Try this in conjunction with headphones and visualization.

15) Cat stretch start with all fours, then lay your head and chest flat on the floor with your buttocks in the air, as you round your back and return to all fours.

16) Knee-chest position – by kneeling with hips flexed slightly more than 90 degree, but with thighs not pressing against your tummy and your head, shoulders and upper chest are flat on a mattress for 15 minutes every two waking hours for five days.

17) Belly Relaxing followed by Inversion – Partner places a shawl, sheet or towel under mom’s hips as she lays on the floor. Lift up on the corners of the cloth and shimmy her from side to side moving your hands up and down to wiggle her belly from side to side. These should be very small movements which mom should find very relaxing. Do this for about 5 minutes. Then do inversion.

18) Yoga. Specifically the Downward Dog pose because it causes your pelvis to tilt forward, creating room for the baby to move around.

19) Emotional Free Technique. I tried this in an effort to remove any fear or blocks that I had regarding having a cesarean in hopes that he would finally turn once I was no longer so stressed about the possibility of a cesarean. EFT was originally developed by Gary Craig and is based on an emotional form of acupuncture without any needles. The process involves tapping on certain meridian points around the body while concentrating on a particular distressing issue. This is known as tuning in to the bad experience, memory or negative emotion. (if you live in the Chicagoland area I very highly recommend Wendy Branchfield for this technique. She is incredibly intuitive and you will make incredible progress with her.)

I tried almost everything on this list, including the Websters technique and acupuncture/moxibustion. When he did not turn after a couple weeks of the latter treatments, I felt that he wasn’t turning for a reason and opted out of the external cephalic version, which is for some, a last resort. The ECV involves the OB or midwife manually turning the baby from the outside. The success rate is 58% and it can bring on immediate labor in some cases. Also if the baby is successfully turned with this method, he/she can still turn back to breech.

I planned on trying the underwater headstands and a professional massage with breech work during week 38 but my water broke and he arrived via Gentle Cesarean at 38w2d.

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