Turning a Breech Baby with Moxibustion

When I read this study (on the ozmidwifery list) it made my little head spin round a few times. Why?
1. I can’t imagine that physicians have been studying the effects of moxibustion on turning breech babies since 1980—maybe midwives are having an influence or was it Traditional Chinese Medicine?

2. I wonder if North American physicians will be stocking up on moxa sticks now that they have “statistically significant” peer-reviewed evidence that it works. If you don’t know what a moxa stick is, it looks like a cigar that you light and the mugwort herb burns slowly because it’s densely packed.moxibustion on baby toe

3. I can’t believe that they would publish this analysis in a staid journal like the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

I must admit that I’m surprised and delighted by these strange occurrences. Now, let’s push for this study to be put into practice to save women from unnecesareans.

So, here’s the article:

Moxibustion for Bringing Babies Around to the Head-First Position
* Vas J, Aranda JM, Nishishinya B, et al.

Correction of nonvertex presentation with moxibustion: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
/American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology/ 2009;201(3), 241-59.

This review pooled the results from studies published between 1980 and 2007 that looked at ways to turn fetuses that were not well-positioned for head-first birth into that position. The studies compared moxibustion to other ways to encourage the fetus to turn (hands-to-belly maneuvers, having the mother lie with her head lower than her feet, acupuncture). Moxibustion involves burning the herb mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) over an acupuncture point found on the outer corner of the smallest toenail. Seven studies presenting data from 1087 women were included in the analysis. All the women in the studies in this review were randomly picked to receive either moxibustion or one of the other methods, to strengthen confidence that any differences in experiences of study groups were due to the moxibustion.

Combined results from the studies showed that the fetuses of women receiving moxibustion were 36% more likely to turn to a head-first position than those who got other treatments or no treatment, and this result was statistically significant. To check this result, the study authors looked separately at four trials that used similar starting points for moxibustion, all after the 32nd week of pregnancy. Here too, the likelihood of the fetus turning to a head-first position was more than 30% greater for the women who got moxibustion than for those who got another treatment.

The study found no differences in safety between moxibustion and the other methods. Surprisingly, there was also no difference in the rate of cesarean birth between the groups. Six of the seven studies were carried out in China or Italy. Practice patterns in those countries (e.g., greater acceptance of vaginal breech birth) may explain why the review did not show a higher risk of cesarean section in the group that did not get moxibustion; if done too early, babies could also flip back into breech position,

Added March 5, 2014. A word of caution. I arrived at a breech birth recently and noted that the woman had a brown spot near her baby toe. There was a matching one on the other side. When I inquired what that was she said “It’s from the moxibustion.” The practitioner had applied it so close, he had burned her (as in a cigarette burn). I can’t imagine the pain she must have endured. You hold it close enough for the heat to be felt but NOT close enough to burn! Gloria

3 thoughts on “Turning a Breech Baby with Moxibustion

  1. When a friend of mine was in Med school at UBC several years ago, and my baby was in the breech position at 37 weeks, he told me they had discussed moxibustion in class as a viable and no-risk option to try before referring for a version and suggested that I try it. I went to a chiropractor and was planning on using moxibustion as well, but after a single webster adjustment, my baby flipped, and stayed head down for the rest of the pregnancy.

  2. Pingback: How to turn a breech baby « Woman to Woman Childbirth Education

  3. Pingback: Ideas on Turning a Breech Baby | MommyMandy l California Mom Blog

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