Moxibustion (Moxa) and Acupuncture for Turning a Breech Baby

A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women with breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point (acupoint BL 67) on the bladder meridian. If administered correctly, the burning moxa’s heat touches the acupoint indirectly at a point above the skin. Since the moxa’s heat does not reach the skin directly, the threshold for discomfort is easily monitored. The acupoint given attention is located on the toes, so no actual heat approaches the uterus, making moxibustion safe for mother and baby.  (More on safety: Is acupuncture and safe for me and the baby?)

What is moxibustion?
Since the use of fire to stop “cold” pain by warming the body, methods of local hot compression have developed to treat diseases and imbalances. Primitive forms of moxibustion developed in the cold North of China, where fire was used for healing, and included burning bundles of branches or hay.  As the technique gradually became more precise, the moxa plant (dried mugwort) was recognized as most the effective plant to use.  Moxibustion is described in ancient records, Plain Questions, written in the third century B.C., along with extensive explanation on physiology, diagnosis and therapeutic treatments.  These writings are recognized as a foundation of Chinese Medicine and pharmacology.

Indirect moxibustion is a popular form of increasing the body’s natural flow of energy at a certain point.  One end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, is lit and held close to the area being treated for several minutes. Administering Moxa opens up the uterus to make more room for the breech baby to turn.  Combined with an acupuncture treatment, moxibustion helps to increase fetal movement, and the effect of gravity will encourage the heaviest part of the baby, the head, to enter the pelvis as it shifts its position.

How to Administer Moxa at Home

To burn moxa at home, you will need:
2 Moxa Sticks
Shot Glass or small glass

Administer treatment two times each day, 15 minutes per toe, in a well ventilated area, unless otherwise instructed. Repeat each day until baby’s head-down position is confirmed either by midwife, doctor or mother, or unless otherwise directed by acupuncturist.

The mother should position herself in a comfortable semi-reclined position so that her uterus is as open, relaxed, and as unobstructed as possible.  Both pinky toes should be readily accessible.  It is recommended that moxa be administered just before bed, starting at 34 – 36 weeks.  It takes several hours for the baby to turn and this will be easier if lying down, because the baby will not be sitting as firmly into the pelvis.

1. Light candle.

2. Light moxa by slowly rotating moxa stick in the candle flame until tip glows red. This may take up to a couple minutes. You may gently blow air on the tip of the moxa stick to see if it is lit.

3. Once lit, hold the each moxa stick about 1 inch above BL67, the acupuncture point on the lower, outer corner of each pinky toe nail.

4. Gently move the moxa sticks above each BL67 in a circular motion, clockwise or counterclockwise. As you rotate, visualize the moxa opening and widening the mother’s uterus to make more space for the baby.

5. When the mother reports that either toe is too hot, remove the moxa from her toe for a few seconds to cool down. Then resume above the toe again.

6. As the moxa stick burns, ash will collect on the tip, blocking the heat. Knock or scrape the ash off the stick into the shot glass and resume above the toe.

7. At the end of the 15 minutes, extinguish the moxa in the ash that has collected in the shot glass.

More At-Home Remedies

Additional actions can encourage your baby to turn head down:

Lie on your back, with your bottom away from the wall. Place the feet high on the wall, and using it for support, lift your hips high. Have pillows or a firmly rolled towel ready to slip behind your back for support. Your hips need to be higher than your shoulders.

An alternative is to adopt a “knee-chest” position, with your bottom high in the air and your head and chest on the floor.

This exercise, done 3 times each day for 15 minutes discourages the baby from settling into the pelvis.

According to the theory that babies have very sensitive hearing, it is useful to play music near the pelvic bone; your baby may move toward it to hear better. Your recorded voice or your partner’s voice can also have a soothing effect on the baby to turn. Placing a bright flashlight near the baby’s head and “leading” it toward the pelvis is another option.Place a cold compress or a bag of frozen veggies near the baby’s head, and a warm compress or hot water bottle near the pelvis; the baby will seek the warmth away from the cold.


Image Credits: Keerati, FreeDigitalPhotos.Net