Moxa therapy for breech presentation – Ouders van Nu

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April 2, 2024, 9:13 PM

Moxa is a stick or ‘cigar’ made from dried mugwort herb. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine to heat acupuncture points. According to Chinese medicine, these points are located on meridians that run just under the skin. These meridians are a kind of energy channels; a channel system through which energy is distributed in your body.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, heating acupuncture points with smoldering moxa can influence the flow of energy. The heat from the moxa cigar, also called a moxa stick, penetrates deep into the body via the meridians. Moxa therapy is used for a variety of purposes, including to help breech babies turn to the cephalic position.

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Example of a burning moxa stick.

The acupuncture point that is heated for breech presentation is on the side of your little toe, where the bladder meridian ends according to traditional Chinese medicine. The practitioner lights the top of the moxa stick until it glows and then holds it at a distance of approximately one centimeter from this point. You feel the heat, but it does not hurt and is rather pleasant. The warming energy then travels via the bladder meridian into your small pelvis, where the uterus is located. This creates movement in this area. According to Western medicine, moxa ensures better blood flow to the muscle tissue in the uterus. This makes the baby more mobile and the chance of it turning increases.

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Moxa in breech presentation Image Ouders van Nu Editorial
Image Parents of Now Editorial

Moxa treatment: the stick can be held above the skin or against an acupuncture needle.

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If your obstetrician or gynecologist has determined that your baby is breech at week 33, you can start moxa therapy. The sooner you start, the greater the chance of success. After 36 weeks, the chance that the baby will turn decreases significantly, although some babies still lie in the ideal position just before birth. Sometimes one treatment is enough, sometimes you have to repeat it daily for a week or more.

Always consult your obstetrician or gynecologist before making an appointment. If they think a moxa treatment is responsible, you can go to an acupuncturist and some doulas or pregnancy coaches also provide the treatment (make sure they are actually trained for this). During the first treatment you will usually be explained how you can do it yourself at home. It’s not difficult, but you do have to pay attention to a few things. It is therefore even better to take your partner or someone else with you so that he learns how to do it. The chance of an effect is greatest if you can sit comfortably, and that is less successful if you try to reach your toe around your fat belly with a hot cigar.

The costs vary per provider, but you often pay between 50 and 75 euros for a personal consultation. Such a consultation is usually fully or partially reimbursed if you have additional insurance. So read your policy conditions carefully for possible reimbursements. The costs of the moxa sticks are usually not reimbursed. These are a few euros each.

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Several studies have demonstrated the effect of moxa therapy in breech presentation. The Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam also conducted research into this. This showed that the chance of a baby turning spontaneously doubles with moxa therapy, provided this is started in week 33. Of the babies who were breech in week 33, 34 percent turned on their own, without further treatment. In the research group that received a moxa treatment, 66 percent turned. This concerned first pregnancies; with a subsequent pregnancy there is a greater chance that the baby will turn. After week 36 the risk decreases because there is less room to move.

The chance of success with external version (where the midwife tries to manually turn the baby from the outside) is also greater if you first perform the moxa treatment.

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Your baby has probably settled into a breech position because this is the most comfortable position for him. He may not have been able to find the space to make the turn or to lie down comfortably with his chin on his chest. This is generally not because the baby is too big, but is usually due to the position of the mother’s pelvis. It is therefore important to give your baby as much space as possible in the belly in addition to the moxa treatment. This can be done in the following ways:

  • Avoid slouching. When you sit upright, on your sit bones and with both feet on the floor, your pelvis is in the ideal position to make space.

  • Relax. Take a nice bath regularly, breathe into your belly, stroke it or have your belly gently massaged. This relaxes the muscles and makes your abdomen softer and wider. Read more about pregnancy massage here.

  • Walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga: it all contributes to flexible, symmetrical muscles and ligaments. This affects your pelvic position and the position of your uterus, and thus has a positive effect on the space for your baby.

  • Spinning Babies is an approach with different postures and techniques aimed at optimizing the position of the pelvis and the uterus. On the Spinningbabies.com site you will find specific exercises to help breech babies turn and you can download an instructional DVD (note: in some cases it is better not to do certain exercises, so read/watch the instructions carefully).

The treatment with moxa is not painful, not painful for the mother and the baby and safe. Several safety studies have been conducted, which showed no side effects or risks. It is of course very important that the glowing moxa stick does not come into contact with the skin, clothing or other flammable material.

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Always consult your obstetrician or gynecologist before using moxa therapy. In some cases it may not be wise, for example if you have very little amniotic fluid, have previously had a caesarean section or if the placenta is in front of the cervix.

  • The baby’s natural, spontaneous turning is stimulated.

  • It is safe for mother and child.

  • The treatment is painless and has no side effects.

  • Moxa therapy can take place at home and takes about 15-20 minutes per day.

  • After a personal consultation, you or your partner carry out the daily treatment yourself. The treatment lasts as long as necessary. One treatment may be enough. After ten days it is good to take a break.

If your baby remains breech, you can have an external version done. Sometimes the midwife does this herself, but you can also be referred to another obstetrician or gynecologist who have a lot of experience with this. This involves attempting to manually turn the baby from the outside. The chance of success is greater if you have done moxa therapy first.

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Some babies cannot be turned over or, after an attempt to turn, lie with their bottom down again. In that case, you are faced with the choice between a planned caesarean section and a vaginal breech birth. Your obstetrician or gynecologist can explain the pros and cons of both options, so that you can make a good decision yourself.

Read more here about the options for a breech birth: vaginal or caesarean section.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Moxa therapy breech presentation Ouders van

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