Can Moxibustion help turn Breech Babies?

Moxibustion is an old Chinese practice to position a breech baby to top first or head first.

It is commonly performed around 34–36 weeks of pregnancy. Leaves of the mugwort plant are used in Moxibustion, or “Moxi sticks”.

Moxibustion involves; burning dried plant mugwort  ‘Moxa’ on patients skin known as ‘direct Moxa’, also on acupuncture needle or in close proximity in form of Moxa Stick, dried mugwort has been rolled in paper that looks very much like a cigar.

Direct moxa is in a form of a little cone. The moxa cone is placed on patients skin on an acupuncture point. In both a direct and indirect application of Moxa, patient can feel heat on the skin.

There is no one suggested way to do moxibustion, but many women heat the particular energy points of their feet by using Moxa sticks for about 15-20 minutes from 1-10 times per day, for around two weeks. This treatment usually starts between 28 and 37 weeks of gestation.

The heat receptors on the skin of the toe are stimulated by the burning of the moxa stick. Heat triggers the release of two pregnancy hormones – placental estrogen and prostaglandins – which lead to the contractions of uterine muscles. These changes help increase the baby’s activity thus encouraging the baby to move (Cardini & Weixin, 1998).

What is a breech baby?

During pregnancy babies often turn and twist and by the time labour begins most babies move into the head-first position. However, that’s not always the case, and a baby may also turn feet first or bottom first or (breech position). So, if your baby is lying feet first or bottom first, they are in the breech position.

And if at around 36 weeks’ pregnancy they’re still breech, the midwife and obstetrician will talk about your possibilities for a safe delivery. About 90% of these babies are born by planned cesarean section. But many women try different ways to turn their babies in a bottom-up position to escape a cesarean section.

Why does a breech position happen?

Some of the common reasons are:

  • Too little or too much amniotic fluid around the baby
  • Multiple pregnancy – often one twin will be in a breech position and the other one in a headfirst position
  • Umbilical cord’s length
  • Mother’s uterus of irregular shape or size
  • Uterine fibroids

Can Moxibustion help turn a breech baby?

Rebecca Dekker, a contributor to Occasional Science & Sensibility examined the traditional method of Moxibustion to help turn breech babies head first. Rebecca looked at the current research facts on this ancient technique for turning babies headfirst and shared the results in an article with readers of Science & Sensibility and can be easily shared with patients, clients and students. It included:

In 2012, researchers collected and combined results from eight studies. 1,346 women with breech babies were randomly given moxibustion, no other treatment, or just a substitute treatment (like acupuncture). Evidence suggested that moxibustion, when done with either postural techniques or acupuncture, is safe and enhances your chances of turning a breech baby to bottom-up.

But they are still not sure which kind of moxibustion technique works best for turning head first babies (like the number of sessions, duration of pregnancy, an interval of sessions, etc.). Though it gave the idea that using moxibustion (during weeks 33-35 of pregnancy) two times per day for two weeks will give results for 1 out of every 8 women.

According to statistics roughly 15% of pregnancies that are between 29 and 32 weeks have babies in breech position (Kauppila 1975), although only 3% to 4% of these will carry on in the breech position until labour, the longer baby stays in this position the smaller are the chances of the baby turning and they will be delivered by caesarean section.

We do not know exactly how Moxibustion works but there are some studies ( that state that burning moxa and warming the little toe with it has an effective and safe way to correct babies’ breech position when used in 32 to 35 week of pregnancy.

Women who have intentions to use this Chinese technique (moxibustion and acupuncture) to help turn a breech baby, should consult a qualified and certified acupuncturist who is experienced in treating pregnant women.

If you would like more information about how acupuncture could help you please get in touch.