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In roughly 3-4% of pregnancies, expectant mothers end up with babies who are in the breech position at term. The vast majority of these babies are delivered via a planned cesarean section. Many women, however, utilize various methods in an effort to turn their babies so they can deliver naturally.
One option is external cephalic version, or ECF, during which the baby is manually turned externally through the belly. Though this technique is safe and often effective, it also tends to be quite uncomfortable. An alternative that many women have embraced is moxibustion.
Moxibustion is a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy during which burning herbs known a moxa are held close to the skin near specific acupoints. The herb traditionally used is Chinese mugwort, which is known for its medicinal properties. It is believed that moxibustion removed blockages that prevent Qi, or vital energy, from flowing through the body along pathways known as meridians. Clearing blockages is said to do everything from curing headaches and easing the pain of arthritis to turning breech babies.
When attempting to turn a breech baby using moxibustion, the burning moxa is usually held close to the fifth toes on both feet. Treatment usually begins between the 28th and 37th weeks of pregnancy and is performed up to 10 times per day. During each session, the burning moxa is held close to the toes for 15 to 20 minutes.
Burning moxa near the toes stimulates heat receptors. It is believed that the warmth stimulates the release of two pregnancy hormones – prostaglandins and placental estrogen. The release of these hormones can cause uterine contractions which can, in turn, encourage the baby to move.
While moxibustion has been performed for thousands of years, scientific studies regarding its effectiveness are limited. One study, however, that compared the effectiveness of moxibustion to the effectiveness of acupuncture found that fewer expectant mothers in the moxibustion group had breech babies at birth than those in the acupuncture group.
Another study, which included 226 women, found that women who received moxibustion plus acupuncture had a 27% decrease in the risk of a baby being breech at birth compared to those who received no treatment. The same study also showed a 21% decrease in the risk of having a C-section for those who received moxibustion and acupuncture.
In a study in which one group received moxibustion and postural techniques and the other received postural techniques alone, those who received moxibustion showed a 74% decrease in the risk of a baby being breech at term.
Moxibustion has been used to treat all sorts of problems for thousands of years. Studies are still being conducted to determine its effectiveness, but emerging research indicates that it can be an effective tool for turning breech babies. And thanks to at-home moxibustion tools like EasyMoxi, expectant mothers can try this technique themselves without having to seek out a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.