Turning Breech Babies with Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine

Turning Breech Babies with Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine

10 June 2017 by Caitlin Armit


What is moxibustion?

The botanical name for moxa is Artemesia Vulgaris and the Mandarin name for it is Ai Ye. It involves the burning of the dried herb ‘mugwort’ for a variety of reasons. Some forms of moxa are used directly against the skin and others are burned near the skin but not touching it. It is often used for pain and to improve circulation by providing warmth to an area that is cold or ‘stagnant’ in nature. It is an emmenagogue, meaning that it improves blood circulation to the uterus.

The use of moxibustion applied to the little toe for difficult labour was first mentioned in the Moxibustion Methods for Emergencies by Wenren Qinian in 1226. In Chinese hospitals, this technique has been used to treat breech presentations for decades however the research to date, although promising, is not yet sufficient for this method to be incorporated into clinical practice guidelines for obstetricians in Australia. The New Zealand clinical practice guidelines do recommend it.

Is this method supported by research?

The evidence for this research is mixed and despite the treatments popularity, the latest Cochrane Review in 2012 found limited evidence to support it’s use.

A 2013 study by Vas et al, titled Using Moxibustion in Primary Healthcare to correct Non-Vertex Presentation: A Multicentre Randomised Controlled Trial compared the effectiveness of moxibustion at acupuncture point BL67 to moxibustion at a non-specific acupuncture point (SP1) to correct non-vertex presentation.

In this randomised controlled trial, 406 women at 33-35 gestational weeks with low-risk pregnancy and a breech presentation foetus as shown in ultrasound were divided into three groups. Group 1 received moxibustion at BL67 plus usual care, group 2 received moxibustion at SP1 plus usual care and Group 3 received usual care only.

58.1% of participants in Group 1 had cephalic presentations at full term compared with 43.4% in Group 2 and 44.8% in Group 3. Researchers concluded that moxibustion at BL67 is a safe and effective treatment method for correcting non-vertex presentations when used at 33 to 35 weeks gestation. The study concluded that concluded that “moxibustion at acupuncture point BL67 is effective and safe to correct non-vertex presentation when used between 33 and 35 weeks of gestation. The study concluded “We believe that moxibustion represents a treatment option that should be considered to achieve version of the non-vertex foetus.” As mentioned above, not all research on moxibustion for turning breech babies has been so positive, largely due to methodological design flaws.

In the clinic:

Patients report that moxibustion is a relaxing and soothing adjunct treatment to acupuncture. Most women we see in clinic are around 32 to 34 gestational weeks and have had an ultrasound showing that the foetus has not moved into cephalic position.

Moxibustion can be used from 30 weeks but generally the optimal time frame is between 32 and 37 weeks. This may not be a suitable treatment for women who have:

  • Caesarean sections within the past 2 years
  • Placenta Previa
  • Twins
  • High-risk pregnancies
  • Bleeding during pregnancy, especially in the last few months


Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: A randomized controlled trial

Using Moxibustion in Primary Healthcare to correct Non-Vertex Presentation: A Multicentre Randomised Controlled Trial

Categories: Brisbane Acupuncture Blog | Women's Health Brisbane

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