Correcting Breech Presentation with Moxabustion

By Christina Morris, L.Ac.
The articles that I write are to educate and provide a further understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine can aid in the treatment of a variety of health conditions and work well in complimenting other medical approaches.

It is estimated that 3-4 % of babies are in breech position when the mother goes into labor. If a woman enters labor with the baby in breech position, she is almost always delivered by cesarean section. Breech presentation means that the baby is in a position where the head is the last to emerge, and the buttocks or feet are the first to emerge during delivery.

Studies indicate that acupuncture may be an effective form of treatment in the correction of breech presentation. In a research study published by JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), 130 mothers with breech presentation were treated with moxabustion and an equal number in a control group received no treatment. In the group treated with moxabustion, 75% of the babies were effectively turned compared to 48% in the control group. Moxabustion is the burning of an herb called mugwort or moxa; moxa is a common herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine used to stimulate acupuncture points. In the treatment of breech presentation, this herb is burned above a point located below the nail of the small toe for 15 minutes on both feet. This point is known as Urinary Bladder point 67, or “zhi yin” in Chinese Medicine. Other studies in China have varying success rates ranging from 81% to 90.3%. Most research shows that the 34th week of gestation may be the most successful in turning the baby with moxabustion but can also be very effective anywhere between the 32nd and 36th week of gestation. Additional moxabustion research is still ongoing.

Exactly how this form of treatment works is still unknown. Theories suggest that moxabustion at the point just below the outside of the nail on the small toe stimulates the release of hormones that help to turn the baby. The Co-operative Research Group on Moxabustion Version of Jiangxi Province postulates that the moxabustion stimulates corticoadrenal secretion, which increases placental oestrogens and changes prostaglandin levels, thereby leading to increased myometrial sensitivity and increased myometrial contractility also increasing fetal heart rate and fetal activity. All of these changes, therefore, contribute to the turning of the baby.

Moxabustion for the correction of malposition does not involve the use of needles. It is simple and non-invasive. This method is performed daily for fifteen minutes per foot and for up to 10 days total. Initially it is done for five days, pausing treatment for a couple days to monitor the position of the baby, then continued for 5 more days, if needed. Treatment should be discontinued once the baby has turned from the breech position to cephalic, or head down. This treatment can be a good investment in the prevention of a cesarean section. Treatments can be performed by a husband, partner, or friend. It is advised that the initial instruction of application be provided by a licensed acupuncturist and then further treatments can be continued at home.