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Breech Presentation

Breech presentation occurs when the baby is not in the optimal position for vaginal delivery a few weeks before birth. The incidence of breech presentation is thought to be 3–4% at term, with a much higher rate for women delivering prematurely (at 28 weeks gestation, 25% of babies are breech).

Types of Breech Presentation

Frank breech: The baby’s buttocks are aimed toward the birth canal, with the legs flexed at the hip and the feet near the head. This accounts for 65–70% of breech babies.

Complete breech: The buttocks are down, with the legs folded at the knees; the baby is sitting crosslegged.

Footling breech: One or both of the feet are pointing down and will come out first. This presentation is relatively common with premature deliveries.

Kneeling breech: The baby is in a kneeling position, with one or both legs extended at the hips and flexed at the knees. This is a very rare presentation.

Chinese medicine treatment of breech presentation

Acupuncture is successful in turning breech presentation babies in about 70% of cases, according to research. Treatments should begin between 32 and 36 weeks gestation for optimal results. Patients are also shown how to perform simple moxibustion (local burning of a Chinese herb to stimulate an acupuncture point) on themselves at home to enhance their results.

Causes of breech presentation

Prematurity has a large impact on breech presentation, with 25% of babies in breech positions at 28 weeks gestation, dropping to around 3% at term. The causes of full-term breech presentations are not fully known. However, a breech birth is more common:

  • In subsequent pregnancies
  • In multiple pregnancies
  • With a history of premature delivery
  • With abnormalities of amniotic fluid volume
  • With an abnormally shaped uterus or uterine growths
  • With a history of cesarian section
  • With congenital fetal anomalies
  • In women with placenta previa

Western medicine treatment of breech presentation

External cephalic version: A midwife or doctor manipulates the baby through the mother’s abdomen, thus causing it to turn. The success rate for this procedure is between 40% and 70%, depending on the practitioner, when performed after 36 weeks. Complications from external cephalic version are rare.

Dr. Alison Hunter
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