Moxibustion for breech presentation can be extremely effective. A recent study showed a 45% success rate in a study of 76 women (Grabowska & Manyande 2008). It provides a non-invasive alternative to caesarian deliveries.
Caesarian sections for breech babies involve an increased risk of maternal morbidity. Possible side-effects include urinary tract problems, haemorrhage, blood transfusion, and the risk of infection. They are also time-consuming and use resources & hospital time.
The alternative treatment that can be provided for a breech presentation by a trained acupuncturist is simple and does not even involve needles. Instead a rolled stick of a herb called moxa is lit and used to warm and stimulate a point on the little toe of each foot. The only negative side-effects that have been reported with moxibustion for breech presentation are minor burns to the foot from applying the moxa incorrectly due to inadequate instruction from the practitioner. The procedure is cheap, non-invasive, and without complication.
There are various ideas as to how it works. These theories include increased corticoadrenal secretion, increased blood flow to the uterus and pelvic area, or increased placental oestrogens with changes in prostaglandin levels which increase uterine contractibility & foetal motility.
Women must book an appointment with a qualified practitioner, who will then carry out the stimulation of the point. The practitioner will demonstrate the procedure clearly and then provide a supply of moxa for the patient to take away. The treatment is self-administered twice a day for seven days or until the foetus turns, at which point the treatment is immediately ceased. Some women cannot reach the point themselves and will have to rely upon a partner or other friend/family member to do it for them.
Who can Benefit from Moxibustion for Breech Presentation?
Timing is essential with breech babies. The 34th week seems to be the optimal time, when the volume of amniotic fluid is at its greatest, making it easier for the foetus to turn. After the 36th week, there is little substantial evidence of efficacy. It is important, therefore, to start the treatments as soon as possible following diagnosis in the hospital. If the foetus has engaged (babyÕs bottom is deep in maternal pelvis), turning of breech babies with moxibustion is virtually impossible.
Multiparous women are more likely to have a successful version, possibly because engagement usually occurs during labour and their abdominal muscles are more likely to be relaxed allowing more room for foetal movement.