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How to Use Moxibustion to Turn a Breech Baby

Cherry Blossoms

Moxibustion has proven very effective for helping to turn a breech baby. Below, I’ll walk you through why moxibustion is effective in getting babies into the optimal head-first position. I’ll also share the Cherry Blossom Healing Arts protocol and step-by-step instructions for using moxibustion both in the clinic and at home to help turn a breech baby.

What is Breech Presentation?

Breech presentation is when the baby is not head down in the third trimester as delivery is approaching. The baby can be feet down, lying transverse, or bottom down in the uterus. If baby turns head down, also called vertex presentation, a vaginal birth is more likely and it’s safest. 

How Common is Breech Presentation?

Only about 3% of full-term babies are breech. This is because most babies will move to a head-first position by 37 weeks of pregnancy. 

What Causes Breech Presentation?

The cause of breech presentation is not always known. Breech presentation is more common in pregnancies of multiple babies. Breech can be more common if the uterus has an abnormal shape.Breech can also be more common if the baby is preterm because the baby may not have gone head-first yet.

What is Moxibustion? 

Moxibustion or Moxa is a type of herb that acupuncturists burn over very specific acupuncture points. The herb that is used for Moxibustion is known by many names including mugwort in English, artemisia vulgaris in Latin, jiu in Chinese, and kyu in Japanese. 

Acupuncturists use moxibustion or moxa to nourish and warm certain acupuncture points to accentuate their effects. Moxibustion nourishes blood, Yang, and Yin. It can warm points to treat stagnation and help ease pain. This is why moxibustion is an incredible adjunct therapy for women’s health and perinatal care

Does Moxibustion Work for Breech Babies?

Yes, moxibustion does work to turn breech babies. For turning a breech baby, moxa is applied to the acupuncture point, BL-67 (Zhiyin) right on the lateral corner of the pinkie toe. This acupuncture point on the Bladder Channel helps turn the fetus. Classically, moxibustion is applied either with a moxa stick or using a cone to this point starting around weeks 32-34 on average. We have seen babies turn as late as week 37, but the earlier the better. Time is of the essence.

How Does Moxibustion Work to Turn a Breech Baby?

It is thought that the heat from moxibustion stimulates prostaglandin receptors that cause mild contractions (similar to braxton hicks contractions). These gentle contractions help stimulate the baby to turn head down. We find that this works about 60% of the time. This is a pretty high efficacy rate, so much so that many OB-GYNs prescribe moxibustion for breech presentation.

Cherry Blossom Healing Arts Protocol for Doing Moxibustion for Breech Baby at Home

Moxibustion for turning a breech baby should be performed with assistance from your licensed acupuncturist who will provide you the tools and education to safely do moxibustion yourself at home. We advise that you perform moxa at home, right before you go to bed only after you have had acupuncture which will increase the effectiveness of the moxibustion. It’s best to sleep on your side, stretched out (as much as you are able to comfortably).

Step 1 – The Cat-Cow Pose

Do between 10 and 20 cat-cow exercises if it is safe for you to exercise. These exercises open your hips and pelvis allowing a little more room for Baby to turn.

Illustration of a woman doing the Cat-Cow yoga pose
Step 1 – The Cat-Cow Pose

Step 2 – Administer Moxibustion

This step is safest when done with assistance! Have your birth partner or helper administer moxibustion on BL-67 for 10 minutes per side (so 20 minutes total if you are alternating sides). Use the sparrow-pecking method so that your foot doesn’t get too hot. It might be easier to light the moxa cigar with a candle because it can take a while to light it. We also suggest using a coffee cup to snuff out the moxa cigar because you’ll want to relight it the next night. 

maxa stick applied to the acupuncture point, BL-67 (Zhiyin)
Step 2 – Administer Moxibustion

Step 3 – Sleep on Your Side

Go to bed and sleep on your side, allowing the baby a little more room for turning. 

Pregnant Woman Sleeping
Step 3 – Sleep on Your Side

Repeat This Process Every Night for One Week

Repeat this process each night for a week. Be sure to set up a follow-up prenatal appointment about one week after starting the moxibustion so you know if the baby is head down or not. 

Also, it’s best to receive acupuncture at least twice a week during this process to aid the moxibustion in its work. You’ll be able to check-in with your acupuncturist regularly and they’ll assist you with next steps.

Dr. Elyse Rohrer Budiash, DTCM, MSOM, Dipl.O.M, L.Ac expains who

We Love Women’s Health

As you can see, moxibustion is amazing for women’s health and perinatal care support! Your acupuncturist will use pulse and tongue diagnosis along with your medical history and current symptoms to create a customized plan for you because you deserve to feel better. To get started, head to our booking page and schedule your first appointment. If you’d like us to check your insurance benefits, we’d be happy to take care of that for you. We are in-network with CareFirst/BlueCross and Aetna.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Elyse, the go-getter who founded Cherry Blossom Healing Arts. I’m 100% a healer who loves to help people feel better! I absolutely love practicing acupuncture in Washington, DC.

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