Moxibustion for Turning a Breech: What is it and Where's the Evidence?

I was discussing in our hypnobirthing classes earlier this week, ways to help baby move from a breech or transverse to a head down position. We got discussing various recommended techniques and conversations led to 'Moxibustion'. Now, breech presentation will get a whole blog post of it's own, as will the other suggested methods of helping baby turn, but here I'm going to be looking at moxibustion- what is it? And will it help?

 

Around 3-4% of babies will be breech at the end of pregnancy, and whilst its perfectly 'doable' to birth some babies in a breech position, many women choose to give birth to their breech baby via casearean. Some women will prefer to look for ways to move baby head down- and up pops moxibustion.

Moxibustion is a form of traditional Chinese Medicine, where the herb Artemesia vulgaria is burned and held over the little toe. (I don't blame you if you're feeling sceptical here.. I sure was).

What's the theory behind it? Sounds nuts if you ask me! The thinking is, that by burning the moxa stick near the toe, the heat receptors on the toe are stimulated. It is thought that the heat encourages the body to release two pregnancy hormones—placental eostrogen and prostaglandins—which lead to uterine contractions. These contractions can then stimulate the baby to move.

 

Still sounding a bit loopy? Well...

  • The evidence seems to show that when used in conjunction with acupuncture or positional or posture techniques, is both safe and increases your chances of helping baby turn.
  • (Moxibustion alone, had no affect on the number of babies born in a breech position, when compared to women receiving no treatment. However, those that used moxibustion alone, where the baby didn't turn, before a breech vaginal delivery, were significantly less likely to need a synthetic oxytocin drip to stimulate contractions during the birth)
  • It is recommended to use the moxibustion technique 2x a day for two weeks, between weeks 33 and 35 of your pregnancy.
  • The research shows that moxibustion will work for around 1 in 8 women.

It's even being offered in some NHS trusts now! I'd love to hear from anyone that has used it (with or without success!) to hear your thoughts!

 

References

Cardini F. & Weixin H. (1998). Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 280(18), 1580-1584. Free full text, click here.

Coyle ME, Smith CA, & Peat B. 2012. Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech presentation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 5. Art. No: CD003928. Click here.

Vas J, Aranda-Regules JM, Modesto M, et al. (2013). Acupuncture Medicine 31: 31-38. Click here.


If you are interested in taking the next step to a positive birth, Positively Birthing Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Classes run throughout Surrey and SW London- areas including Surbiton, Esher, Teddington, Cobham, Twickenham, St Margarets, Thames Ditton, Molesey, Richmond, Wimbledon, Kingston, Sunbury, Epsom, Ewell, and beyond. All bookings can be made here.