Traditional Chinese Medicine Cabinet

Breech Presentation - Moxibustion for Breech Baby

Breech Presentation

A breech presentation is a phenomenon that occurs in the third trimester of a pregnancy (between 30-34 weeks) when the baby is supposed to turn to face head down, engaging into their mother's pelvis. When a breech presentation occurs, the baby's head fails to turn its head down towards the opening of the pelvis, which means the baby cannot be delivered vaginally.

Around 15% of babies will be present in the breech position, but only between 3 and 4% of these babies will remain in this position until labour. Typically in a breech presentation, the baby is presenting with either its knees, feet or buttocks pointing downwards, meaning it is attempting to birth bottom first, which can be dangerous.

To correct a breech presentation, a doctor may attempt to use the external cephalic version (ECV) procedure. Unfortunately, this procedure is both painful and extremely uncomfortable for the majority of women and it doesn't always work. When an ECV fails to successfully turn the baby, the next option is for the expectant mother to undergo an operation so that the baby can be birthed via cesarean delivery.

How we use Moxibustion for breech presentation

Instead of using an ECV to turn a breech baby, we use a method called moxibustion, also known as moxa, from the Chinese herb commonly known as mugwort. When used externally, moxa is first compressed and then rolled into a cigar-shaped herbal stick. During moxibustion, moxa sticks are lit and held over acupuncture points in the body, where the heat radiating from the stick stimulates the points on the body. It's not painful and is quite comfortable.

The moxibustion technique used in breech presentation differs slightly, as the application of heat is to a specific acupuncture point on the little toe. The process is designed to be comfortable for the expectant mother, as the heat is pleasant rather than painful.

How does moxibustion work?

Our trained acupuncturist will place a smokeless moxa stick over the mother's feet, around 1cm above the little toe, as this is where the most dynamic point to activate the uterus can be accessed. Our acupuncturist uses a charcoal preparation of the Mugwort herb which is smokeless, making it suitable for use at home or in the clinic.

What to expect

Acupuncture theory suggests that moxa has a warming effect which works to promote activity and movement in the body. The treatment also makes use of the natural rising properties of heat. Using the raising and warming effect, the acupuncturist encourages the baby to move in an attempt to get the baby to rotate into the correct position. This should provide the baby with the necessary momentum to turn into the head down position, towards the opening of the pelvis.

The practice of moxibustion is intended to be the most comfortable option for an expectant mother suffering from a breech presentation. Our acupuncctirist will demostrate how to apply moxa to the little toe and will give you instructions and a box of moxa sticks for you to continue the treatment at home.