Breech Presentation. As an expectant mother, this is something you don't want to hear, and often in today's medical society, this means an automatic Cesarean Delivery. Other than telling you to do head stands in the pool, and offering External Cephalic Version (ECV), there are not many options that Western Medicine can offer to avoid delivery via cesarean.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used Moxibustion for the correction of fetal position for thousands of years. It has been written about in several ancient medical texts and researched in China and Europe.
Moxibustion is the burning of an herb call Mugwort, or Moxa. For breech presentation, moxa is burned close to but not touching the pinkie toe at a point called UB 67. The moxa is held to the point for approximately 15 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a reddening of the area. Treatments are then repeated twice daily for 5 days, unless there is significant fetal movement, then treatments should stop and the patients should have the position of the baby checked. If after 5 days of treatments there is no change, there should be a break in treatments for 3 days, and the mother should have the fetal position double checked. Then treatments can begin again for up to another 5 days. The first treatment is often done in the office or at the patient's home to demonstrate proper technique, while subsequent treatments are done in the home with the help of a partner. If after 10 days of treatments there is no position change, it is time to consider other options. Life in the womb can be a mystery, and often there are unforeseen circumstances than inhibit a baby from moving into the correct position, these include a short umbilical cord, uterine structure, or just a good old stubborn child (It won't be the last time they test you).
How Does It Work?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the technique warms, tonifies and invigorates the uterus and the fetus create fetal movement and a descending effect. In Western Medicine the application of moxa works in two ways.
The most optimal time to administer Moxibustion is between 32-36 weeks, with the most recognized success being between 34-36 weeks, but there can still be success before 38 weeks. (Between 32-34 weeks there is still a great chance that the baby will turn on its own, without additional stimulation) But, the larger the fetus is the more difficult it becomes to stimulate significant movement, so the sooner the better. Currently, studies in China and Europe hold that, when used correctly, moxibustion is 80-90% effective if administered at 34-36 weeks, and 70% effective if administered between 36-37 weeks, and 50% effective if administered 37-38 weeks. (Cardini and Huang 1998, Italy)
Although this technique is safe, and does not carry any additional risks of complications, there is always a natural risk when a baby moves in the womb, including cord entanglement and cord knots. The use of Moxibustion does not increase the likelihood of these occurring. However, there are some situation where the use of Moxibustion is not applicable.
In conclusion, Moxibustion is a safe and effective treatment, that should be used as a first measure. This is one time that the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine as the "last resort" doesn't do the situation any justice. The best plan is to receive treatments as soon as a breech presentation is diagnosed by your primary care provider.