I am always amazed at how few women know about this traditional Chinese technique to turn a breech baby to a head down baby.
I came across the techniques whilst working on a home birth team where it appeared to have been successful in turning a woman’s baby from a breech position to a head down one enabling her to have the home birth she was planning.
Most babies are wriggly in the uterus and usually settle into a head down position by 36 weeks with only 3-5% of babies remaining breech in position. A vaginal birth of a baby that is head down as oppose to bottom down is safer as reduces the complications that can be associated with a vaginal breech birth especially for those women desiring a home or birth centre birth.
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese technique to turn a breech baby to head first, usually around 34–36 weeks of pregnancy. Moxa – sticks of dried herb – are used to heat specific energy points on your little toes. The heat is absorbed into the points and transferred via energy channels, triggering hormone changes which relax the muscles in your uterus to allow extra “give”, and increasing your baby’s activity, encouraging him to turn. Research suggests moxibustion is about 66% successful, which is better than ECV. It’s best to find a midwife who does moxibustion or contact a credited practitioner after 34 weeks in pregnancy if you know that your baby is breech.
More and more NHS trusts are now offering this technique alongside the option of External Cephalic Version (ECV) to enable women to have a safer vaginal birth of a baby that is head down in the uterus.
Despite this technique being gentle and generally very safe there are risks for some women similar to those discouraged to have an ECV such as if you have had a Caesarean section previously, have a low lying placenta or have ruptured membranes. This list is not exclusive so it is always encouraged to speak to your midwife or obstetrician before starting a moxibustion course, but for most low risk and some high women this technique adds greater choice in your pregnancy for those of you that have a baby in a breech position past 34 weeks.