What is a Breech Baby
Your baby is said to be in a breech position if your baby is in a bottom-down position instead of head down.
In breech presentation, the buttocks or foot / feet of the baby presents at the bottom of your uterus rather than your baby’s head. Between 29-32 weeks pf pregnancy, 15% of all babies will be in a breech position. Only 3-4% of these presentations will stay in this position until labour.
Caesarean section is the recommended mode of birth for breech babies, so. it is preferable to try to encourage the baby to turn. Therefore, if your health care providers think that your baby is in a breech presentation they may discuss the possibility of turning your baby by ECV (External Cephalic Version). Your health care provider may also suggest the option of using moxibustion which is also a technique used to turn breech babies to a head down position.
What Is Moxibustion
Moxibustion is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique to turn a breech baby to head down. The treatment uses a Chinese herb called Moxa (Artemisia argyi), commonly known as ‘Mugwort’ and is usually carried out around 34 – 38 weeks of pregnancy. However, studies suggest that moxibustion is most effective at 34 weeks.
Moxa is compressed and rolled into a cigar-shaped herbal stick and then lit and held over an acupuncture point called Zhiyin or bladder 67 which is situated at the base of your little toenail, on the bladder meridian (energy line). Bladder 67 is the most vibrant point of the most energetic channel to activate the uterus.
According to TCM theory the radiant heat produced has the effect of stimulating the point and transferring heat along the bladder meridian which passes through your uterus, producing a tonifying and warming effect and triggering hormones which relax the muscles in your uterus and your baby. This warming effect also gives your baby more energy so becomes more active so that it is more likely to turn around by itself.
What happens during a moxibustion treatment
Moxibustion is a safe, simple treatment and many women report that the treatment is very calming and relaxing. I will carry out the first moxibustion treatment and demonstrate the technique so that you and most likely your partner can carry it out at home for 20 minutes, to each little toe for 10 days, until your baby turns. Sometimes, I will place a tiny press needle or seed on the point, both to keep the point stimulated and so the partner can see clearly where to direct the heat.
I use ‘smokeless Moxa’, which is a charcoaled preparation of the herb, which as the name suggests produces much less smoke, making it more suitable for use in the clinic and at home. I provide you with full instructions and moxa sticks to take home.
When administering the treatment, I have noticed that babies will start kicking and moving about, but if not, then women report increased activity following the treatment. If your baby does not turn around easily, when the moxibustion treatments are complete, it may be that your baby is in this position for a reason and then options for birth need to be considered.
Research suggests that moxibustion is about 65-66% successful, which is better than ECV. However, a review of 6 randomised controlled trials with a total of 1,087 pregnant women that assessed moxibustion for breech babies was conducted in 2009. The rate of turning the babies among the moxibustion group was 72.5% versus 53.2% in the control group. In terms of safety, no significant differences were found in the comparison of moxibustion with other techniques.
The review concluded that moxibustion to acupuncture point Zhiyin (Bladder 67) has been shown to produce a positive effect, whether used alone or in combination with acupuncture or postural measures, in comparison with observation or postural methods alone.
Moxibustion is not suitable for every woman with a breech baby. Please DO NOT attempt moxibustion without ensuring that your baby is still in a breech presentation. Consult your midwife or GP to confirm the position of your baby before starting the procedure.