“Acupuncture Turned My Baby” – Your New Baby – Autumn/Winter 1999

Some babies leave it to the last minute to turn head-down, others don’t turn at all and you may be faced with a breech birth. But there is an alternative‚Ķ

When Sarah’s midwife told her that her baby was in breech position she began to worry because she knew that mothers of breech babies were often put under pressure to have a caesarean and she didn’t want that.

“When my midwife first told me that he was upside down I couldn’t believe it and kept thinking – I’m sure he’ll turn in a minute, but he didn’t! Every morning I’d be saying to my baby ‘come on turn around, please turn around’ but by 34 weeks I was really getting worried”, says Sarah. “It’s okay, I’m sure it will turn”, her midwife tried to reassure her.

Sarah had been having Acupuncture for her asthma and decided to ask her acupuncturist, Karen Costin, if she could help. Karen specialises in pregnancy and works with Holles Street Hospital in Dublin where she is often asked to treat pregnant women with hyperemesis (constant vomiting) for which there is no conventional cure, bar being put on a drip to keep the fluid intake up.

“There’s a reason why babies go upside down and Acupuncture works on the premise that it is because the energy isn’t right”, says Karen. “In China, where they use Acupuncture for breech babies systematically, they report an 80 per cent success rate. It’s also used extensively in Australia and New Zealand”. Breech babies generally can’t be turned after 36 weeks because they are too big, so Karen set to work straight away – in week 34.

“The idea is to clear the ‘blocks’ that are holding the baby upside down”, says Karen. “If something’s not going right, these ‘blocks’ occur in the body. It’s very common during pregnancy because the body is in stress. The baby is using up so much of your vital chi (energy) to actually grow and be supported on every level that the mother’s energy tends to block up which is why you have problems”.

It took two sessions for Sarah’s baby to turn. “In the first session I took Sarah’s pulse and we could see the baby starting to move around. Even if the baby is asleep they get that sense of energy change”, says Karen.

“I could feel the baby relaxing when Karen was doing the Acupuncture”, says Sarah. “It was as if he was saying mmmm!”

“With Sarah I just cleared the block between the liver meridian and the lung one because I felt that was causing the breech, it’s interesting that this area was linked with Sarah’s asthma. As the blocks are cleared everything in the body starts to harmonise and goes back to the way it should be – which is how the baby turned around.

“In hospitals they sometimes try and manually move the baby and what can happen occasionally is that the baby turns back because it says ‘well actually I quite like being here’. It’s almost like when you sleep in bed and you find the way that is most comfortable for you. If someone moved you it would feel different and that is how it feels for the baby.

“Acupuncture creates the environment which gives babies the sense of how they need to be. After all, most of us don’t feel comfortable standing on our heads!”

Sarah says she got a feeling even after the first session that the baby relaxed and didn’t seem so stuck but, despite a lot of movement, he still wasn’t turning. The following week Karen did another session and Sarah was in for a sleepless night.

“I had the worst indigestion I’ve ever had in my life”, laughs Sarah. “The baby was constantly moving really vigorously, on and on. I didn’t know what was going on. Eventually he stopped and when I felt my tummy I realised that he had turned. It was incredible. He just needed that encouragement. It was such a great feeling when it happened”.

She is now the happy parent of extremely contented Cameron who arrived head first into the world.

What does the term ‘breech birth’ mean?

A baby is in breech position when its head is facing upwards rather than downwards. Usually by around 32 weeks of pregnancy most babies take up a head-down position in the uterus, but around four per cent end up in breech position. It is fairly common in twins – with one facing the wrong way. At 34 weeks some medics may attempt to turn the baby by manipulating the area.

Breech position presents problems because a baby’s bottom does not pass through the birth canal as easily as a head. The baby will either come out bottom first with its legs flat up against its tummy or, in most cases, feet first (footling presentation). An episiotomy and forceps can be used to ease the baby out if the obstetrician is prepared to go ahead with vaginal delivery or, especially if the baby has a large head or the mother has a small pelvic girdle, the baby will be delivered by caesarean. Many obstetricians will recommend a caesarean as they say the risk of birth injury is greater if a breech baby is delivered vaginally.