Toronto Naturopathic Doctor

Moxibustion for Turning Breech Babies

An effective, simple, gentle technique for avoiding c-section

In Canada, a breech baby must be birthed by cesarean section (c-section). C-section is a safe, routine surgical procedure: but any surgery poses more risks to both you and your baby than not having surgery; requires time for recovery (at a time when you will not have extra time); and in the case of c-section, increases risk of serious complications in future pregnancies.

Moxibustion is part of the 5000-year-old tradition of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves warming specific acupuncture points with a cigar-like preparation of the plant Artemesia vulgaris (commonly called Mugwort).

Is there scientific support for the use of moxibustion to turn breech babies?

Using moxibustion for turning breech babies has been validated by a number of research studies. Findings include:

  • 75.4% of women’s breech babies “turned” to cephalic presentation (i.e., a “correct” birthing position) after a moxibustion treatment protocol
  • Moxibustion increases fetal movements by 37% compared to fetuses not receiving moxibustion
  • Moxibustion is 30% more effective than postural methods for turning breech babies
  • Moxibustion results in decreased use of oxytocin before or during labour for women who have vaginal deliveries
  • Moxibustion is safe and does not increase rate of birth complications (e.g., pre-term delivery, premature rupture of membranes)

The final conclusion:

“Moxibustion treatment should be offered to all women with a breech presentation because it is non-invasive and can be self-administered by the woman. It is therefore a simple, cost-effective technique that requires no medical intervention.”

– Anne Manyande , Christine Grabowska (study authors)

How does moxibustion turn breech babies?

The mechanism by which moxibustion works is not clear. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, moxibustion exerts it’s effects by increasing flow of energy called “qì” through channels that exist in the body.

Modern explanations for the effects of moxibustion using biochemistry and physiology include observation that moxibustion triggers secretion of hormones that increase the muscular tone of the uterus.

A second contemporary explanation is that, because the area of the body stimulated using moxibustion and the uterus are innervated by the same area of the spine, applying moxibustion to those specific acupuncture points reflexively stimulates the uterus.

Moxibustion Appointments at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

Moxibustion appointments are one-hour in duration. At your appointment, you will:

  • Discuss and address any potential obstacles to your baby turning (e.g., psychological factors, musculoskeletal factors)
  • Discuss lifestyle interventions that will maximize the probability that your baby will turn
  • Receive a moxibustion treatment; if necessary, augmented using acupuncture
  • Receive training on the most effective moxibustion protocols as demonstrated by scientific studies
  • Discuss whether follow-up acupuncture treatments will increase the probability that your baby will turn

Are moxibustion appointments covered by O.H.I.P.?

O.H.I.P. does not pay for naturopathic medicine services, but as a government-regulated healthcare profession, services offered by naturopathic doctors, including moxibustion appointments provided at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine are covered by most extended healthcare plans.

Learn about our Moxibustion for Turning Breech Babies package here.

References

C-section [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2009 Feb 18]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-section/basics/risks/prc-20014571.

Cardini F, Weixin H. Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1580-4.

Coyle ME, Smith CA, Peat B. Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech presentation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD003928.

Vas J, Aranda JM, Nishishishinya B, Mendez C, Martin MA, Pons J, Liu JP, Wang CY, Perea-Milla E. Correction of nonvertex presentation with moxibustion: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Sep;201(3):241-59.

Manyande A, Grabowska C. Factors affecting the success of moxibustion in the management of a breech presentation as a preliminary treatment to external cephalic version. Midwifery. 2009;25:774-80.

van den Berg I, Bosch JL, Jacobs B, Bouman I, Duvekot JJ, Hunink MG. Effectiveness of acupuncture-type interventions versus expectant management to correct breech presentation: a systematic review. Complement Ther Med. 2008 Apr;16(2):92-100.

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