Moxa Therapy for Breech Babies or Malpresentation

 Michelle Mansueto

Thank you Janice Heller, Midwife, Acupuncturist and dear friend who stoked my interest in all things acupuncture and natural childbirth. 

     I began my journey as an acupuncture physician interning with Midwife and Acupuncturist, Janice Heller. I felt so fortunate to have met her when I was pregnant with my first child, who would later propel me into natural health and acupuncture school. On one of my first days in clinic Janice sent me outside to moxa someone’s toes, using acupuncture point bladder 67, as her baby was breech. I had only read about this technique until that day. The woman had embraced an ecosystem to help shape a natural child birth experience. She had stellar nutrition, regular physical activity, a birth plan, a support system, and then she discovered her baby was breech. There are different techniques to encourage proper position; acupuncturists use the herbal and heat therapy properties of moxa. I set outside with the moxa stick and it's "sage" scent circling the outer edge of the woman's smallest toe. I moved the moxa roll from one acupuncture point to the other. I gently warmed the points on both sides for thirty minutes. The smell of moxa clung to my clothes and hair and filled the air close to us. We instructed the woman to go home and have her partner do the same each day for the next week until she felt significant movement, or until her belly "felt different".
        Moxa therapy guidelines suggest starting around 34 weeks, although it can be performed after this (www.acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/acupuncture/research/moxabustion-breech/). Moxa is the herb Artemisia argyi, or mugwort, packed dried and tightly rolled into cigar shape. Bladder 67 is used to “change polarity” of the body, or bring circulation awareness to the uterus and increase fetal activity. It is located “on the dorsal aspect of the little toe, at the junction of the lines drawn along the lateral border of the nail and the base of the nail, approximately 0.1 cun from the corner of the nail” (Deadman, Peter 1998. A Manual of Acupuncture. East Sussex:Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications). Simply look down at your feet and notice the nail on your smallest toe. The point is on the skin of the little toe where the top edge and outside edge of the nail meet.
        Moxa therapy is nourishing and painless. The moxa stick is lit on one end and held about one inch away from the skin, the stick does not directly touch the skin. The moxa stick does not burn the skin, it gently warms it. When the skin becomes warm on one side you switch to the other side.The warmth activates Reaching Yin, Bladder 67, where the energy begins to change polarity before it enters the kidney channel stimulating the uterus and encouraging the fetus to turn (Deadman, 1998). Moxa heat therapy is continued for about fifteen minutes per side once a day for five days at a time. When there is significant movement and something feels different it is important to have the baby’s position checked again. Debra Betts suggests continuation of moxa treatment for a full ten days even if the baby has turned, reducing the time to ten minutes per side (Betts,D. 2006. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth. East Sussex: The Journal of Chinese Medicine).
        Pregnant women nearing their 34th and 35th weeks may already have difficulty getting to their toes. A local acupuncturist who is familiar with this technique can perform it and may teach your partner how to perform this at home. An important aspect of nourishment is to have someone else perform the treatment. Moxa treatment does not require needles and can be learned with ease. Little time commitment is required to perform and receive treatment. Moxa therapy is non-invasive, gentle, and safe (www.acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/acupuncture/practitioner-resources/moxibustion-therapy/).  It may not work for everyone, but it might help your chances.

        

Deadman, Peter, Mazin Al-Khafaji, and Kevin Baker. A Manual of Acupuncture. Hove, East          Sussex, England: Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications, 1998. 325-26.
"Debra Betts - Acupuncture and Acupressure for Pregnancy and Childbirth." Debra Betts-         Acupuncture and Acupressure for
Pregnancy and Childbirth. N.p./n.d. Web 22                     Feb.2016.
Betts, Debra. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth. East                  Sussex, England: Journal of Chinese Medicine, 
2006. 128-137.
 

Thanks to Janice Heller who can still be found teaching and treating with Moxa in Cooper City and Hollywood.
motherwisecare@gmail.com / 786-942-2090

Michelle Mansueto is available for Moxa Therapy in Plantation and Cooper City.
ecoacupuncture@gmail.com/ 954-400-5806