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Acupuncture at breech presentations

An estimated 3.5% of the babies that are born are in breech presentation just before delivery. Sometimes, the gynaecologist will try to turn the baby in the womb. This can be uncomfortable for the expectant mother. About 80% of the women with a baby in breech presentation will ultimately have a caesarean operation. Much to the regret of most women, they would rather experience a natural delivery. For that reason, an increasing number of women use a treatment referred to as moxa-therapy. Moxa-therapy is completely painless and can be carried out at home, and the most important aspect of it is, research has shown that through moxa-therapy, the chances of a baby turning spontaneously are increased from 50% to 75%.

What is moxa-therapy?

Moxa-therapy is a part of acupuncture and the Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a treatment with a moxa-stick of an acupuncture point on the body. A moxa-stick looks like a big cigar. When it is lit, the moxa-stick spreads an intense warmth across the acupuncture point, which is very pleasant and by no means painful.

Moxa-therapy is not only used for women with a baby in breech presentation; it has been shown to improve the outcomes of a variety of acupuncture treatments.

The word moxa is derived from the Japanese word Mo Cu San, which means mugwort herb, or artemesia vulgaris. Mugwort is the principal ingredient of the moxa-stick.

The safety of moxa-therapy

From the four research papers quoted on this site, no adverse effects have been experienced after moxa-therapy. The moxa-stick itself is of course hot. It should never touch the skin but be kept at a distance of 1 cm (1/3 inch) as a minimum. If the treatment is performed carefully, it is without risks.

Moxa-therapy in breech presentation: some facts from England and Wales

Three thousand years ago, Chinese acupuncturists started to treat pregnant women with moxa-therapy. Scientific research has increased the knowledge about and trust in acupuncture in our western society. In the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), a study was published in 1998 about moxa-therapy in pregnant western women. In England and Wales, an estimated 670.000 babies are born every year. Just before delivery, 23.450 of them, (3.5%), remain in breech position. Most of them will be delivered by caesarean section to avoid the risks of a natural breech delivery.

The JAMA article has contributed to an increased interest all over the world for this treatment, as the study showed that with moxa-therapy, the chances of a spontaneous turning of the baby during the 33rd to the 36th week increase from 50% to 75%.

Fewer babies could be born in breech presentation if the mothers receive moxa-therapy between the 33rd and the 36th week. This can result in an additional 11725 women yearly having a natural delivery in the UK only.

Moxa-therapy with breech presentation: the treatment

Pregnant women carrying a baby in breech position, can start the treatment as of the 33rd week of their pregnancy. The acupuncturist warms the side of the small toe, which in acupuncture terms is referred to as Bladder 67, during a period of 15 minutes with a moxa-stick. This treatment is very easy and can be performed at home with the aid of the partner. This is convenient, because in this stage of pregnancy, it may be difficult to reach the small toe. Moxa-therapy has to be repeated daily for two weeks.

Moxa-therapie for a compleet breech and frank breech position.

As this therapy only affects the uterine wall, it does not really matter if the baby is in a complete or frank breech position. Research does not make any further reference to this.

How does moxa-therapy work?

The way the moxa-therapy works can be explained using both Western Physiology and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

According to the TCM, warming the Bladder 67 (or Zhi Yin) point in the small toe will create warming energy (Yang) in the pelvic floor. This warming energy will cause movement. The uterus is also situated in the pelvic floor, and the movement will cause the baby to move which can result in the turning of the baby.

According to western medical science, moxa-therapy improves the blood circulation of the womb. This enhances the maturing process and increases the chance of the baby turning spontaneously. Furthermore, moxa probably stimulates the adrenal gland and the hormones that the adrenal gland produces, and positively affects the muscular tissue of the womb. Owing to this, the baby would become more active and ultimately, could turn.

The benefits of moxa-therapy:

  • The treatment is completely safe for both the expectant mother and the unborn child. The spontaneous turning will be provoked; there is no direct contact with the baby.
  • The treatment is not a burden for the mother, unlike the external turning by a gynaecologist around the 36th week of pregnancy.
  • There are no known side effects.
  • In 75% of the cases, the baby will turn spontaneously in the womb, provided the treatment is performed between the 33rd and the 36th week of the pregnancy.
  • Using moxa-therapy will increase the chances of a natural birth by 75%.
  • The treatment can be performed at home, because it is very easy to learn.
  • The treatment is cost effective. If a baby does not turn in the womb, he or she will most likely be born through a caesarean operation. A caesarean operation costs approximately £4,000.   

Would you like to learn to use the moxa-therapy?

Moxa-therapy is easy to learn. You can learn it at home with the aid of 4 instruction video’s, which you can find on this website for free. But of course, you can make an appointment with an acupuncturist for a private instruction as well. Find your acupuncturist here.

The treatment

Moxa-therapy is completely painless and can be carried out at home, and the most important aspect of it is, research has shown that through moxa-therapy, the chances of a baby turning spontaneously are increased from 50% to 75%.

Read all about moxa-treatment

The science

At this moment, the most common treatment for a baby in breech presentation is an external turn. The gynaecologist will try to turn the baby externally, by hand. About 80% of the women with a baby in breech presentation will ultimately have a caesarean operation. They would rather experience a natural delivery.

Read all about the science

FAQ

During the more than 6500 instructions on how to use moxa-therapy for breech position, the following questions were asked most frequently. 

Frequently Asked Questions about moxa-treatment

Experiences

“As I have just said on the answerphone: our baby has turned! Hopefully it won’t turn back again!”

-- Marieke Esser/ Mark Eshuis

Read more experiences with moxa