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Breech baby

A breech presentation is a baby that isn't in the correct position for a vaginal birth. A lot of women have a breech baby in their third trimester.

A breech birth or vaginal breech prevents a natural delivery, which sometimes requires a caesarean section.

Moxibustion for a breech baby

The western medical treatment for a breech presentation is an external cephalic version (ECV). This procedure can be painful and uncomfortable.

Moxibustion is used from 34 weeks of pregnancy for correcting breech presentations.

The different types of breech presentations

The term breech is when its head is not facing downwards. There are various types of breech, depending on the baby's position inside the womb. There are 3 types of breech position:

  1. Frank breech: The legs are straight up in front of the body, with the feet near the head, making the buttocks the first part of the baby to be delivered.
  2. Complete breech. The buttocks are down near the birth canal. The knees are bent and the feet are near the buttocks.
  3. Footling breech. One leg or both legs are stretched out below the buttocks. The leg or legs are the first part of the baby to be delivered.

What is moxibustion (moxa)?

Moxibustion is a type of heat therapy. Moxa is a plant (Artemisia Argyi Folium) that is used as a heat source to stimulate particular acupuncture points. It is a type of Chinese medicine therapy that has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2000 years.

It involves burning the moxa to generate heat that is then applied close to the acupuncture point bladder 67 for therapeutic effect.

When can I start to use moxa to turn my baby?

You can start using moxibustion treatment to turn your breech baby from 34 weeks to 38 weeks gestation. Studies suggest that moxibustion is most effective at 36 weeks.

How to use moxa to turn a breech baby

Before using moxibustion to turn a breech baby, you will need the following:

  1. A box of smokeless moxa sticks
  2. A lighter, preferably a BBQ lighter or a Zippo
  3. A small ceramic or glass dish
  4. A small towel to place under the area being treated in case any ash drops
  5. A glass jar to extinguish the moxa when the treatment is finished

How to apply moxibustion for breech presentations

  • Light one end of the moxa stick with the lighter
  • Hold the lit end two to three centimetres from the outer edge of your little toe, close to the skin, making sure there is never any direct contact with the skin. This is the location of bladder 67 acupuncture point
  • Apply to each little toe on both feet for approximately 20 minutes for 10 days
  • When treatment has finished, place the moxa stick in a glass jar with the lid screwed firmly on
  • When you feel any movement, visit your midwife and have a scan to see if the baby has moved into the correct position
  • If the baby has turned, then reduce the treatment time to 10 minutes for each toe until the 10 days has been reached

Research in breech babies

A review of 6 randomised controlled trials with a total of 1,087 pregnant women that assessed moxibustion for breech presentation was conducted in 2009. The rate of turning the babies among the moxibustion group was 72.5% versus 53.2% in the control group. In terms of safety, no significant differences were found in the comparison of moxibustion with other techniques.

The reviewers concluded that moxibustion at acupuncture point Zhiyin (UB 67) has been shown to produce a positive effect, whether used alone or in combination with acupuncture or postural measures, in comparison with observation or postural methods alone.


Betts, B. 2006. The essential guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth. Hove: The Journal of Chinese Medicine.


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