Moxibustion for Breech Birth


Moxibustion for Breech Birth

4540657 - woman's shoulder with smoking moxa on acupuncture needle

Moxibustion (pronounced mok-si-buschan), is a Traditional Chinese technique which involves using moxa rolls (made from dried mugwort, a Chinese herb) as a heat source applied to acupuncture points. When it is lit, the moxa roll spreads an intense warmth across the acupuncture point, which is very pleasant and by no means painful. The moxa roll itself is of course hot. It should never touch the skin but is normally kept at a distance of about 1 inch or 1 cm (1/3 inch) as an absolute minimum. If the treatment is performed carefully, it is very safe.
The Chinese herb Mugwort (artemesia vulgaris) is the principal ingredient of the moxa roll, which is often applied as a cigar-shaped roll which is suspended over the skin for a few minutes at a time. Sometimes the loose herb is rolled into small cones which can then be burned over the skin on a slice of ginger or in a moxa box.

Moxibustion is not only used for women with a baby in breech presentation; it has shown to improve the outcomes of a variety of acupuncture treatments, including common cold, cough and wheezing, back or shoulder pain or muscle aches and arthritis, fatigue, menstrual problems and infertility treatments.

In England and Wales, an estimated 670.000 babies are born every year. Just before delivery, 23450 of them, (3.5%), remain in breech position. Most of them will be delivered by caesarean section to avoid the risks of a natural breech delivery. In the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), a study was published in 1998 about moxibustion in pregnant western women. This study showed that the chances of a spontaneous turning of the baby during the 33rd to the 36th week increase from 50% to 75%. This article has contributed to an increased interest in the UK for this treatment, as it showed that fewer babies could be born in breech presentation if the mothers receive moxibustion between the 33rd and the 36th week.

The Treatment 

Pregnant women carrying a baby in breech presentation can start the treatment as of the 33rd week of their pregnancy. The acupuncturist warms an acupuncture point on the side of the small toe for 15 minutes with a moxa roll. The moxibustion has to be repeated daily for two weeks. It can sometimes be possible to carry out the treatment at home with the aid of a partner.

How does it work? 

According to the TCM, warming the point on the small toe will create warming energy (Yang) in the pelvic floor. This warming energy will cause movement. The uterus is also situated in the pelvic floor, and the movement will cause the baby to move which can result in the turning of the baby. According to western medical science, the moxibustion improves the blood circulation of the womb. This enhances the maturing process and increases the chance of the baby turning spontaneously. Furthermore, moxibustion probably stimulates the adrenal gland and the hormones the adrenal gland produces, and positively affects the muscular tissue of the womb. Owing to this, the baby would become more active and ultimately, could turn.

What are the benefits?

The treatment is completely safe for both the expectant mother and the unborn child. The spontaneous turning will be provoked; there is no direct contact with the baby.
The treatment is not a burden for the mother, unlike the external turning by a gynaecologist around the 36th week of pregnancy.
There are no known side effects.
In 75% of the cases, the baby will turn spontaneously in the womb, provided the treatment is performed between the 33rd and the 36th week of the pregnancy.
Using moxibustion can increase the chances of a natural birth by 75%

With loving support,

Louise x


Evidence for using Moxibustion to turn Breech Babies. Available here.

How to do your baby a good turn: Moxibustion for breech presentation. Available here.