Using Moxa to Turn a Breech Baby
Moxa is a common plant called Mugwort (Artemisia argyi Folium) that is used as a heat source to stimulate acupuncture points. The plant is compressed into long “moxa sticks” or cigars and burnt over a very specific acupuncture point.
Before using moxa you will need to prepare the following:
• A cigarette lighter or candle.
• A small ceramic or glass dish to place any ash in that may form on the moxa stick during treatment
• A small towel to place under the area being treated in case any ash is dropped.
• A glass screw-top jar containing sand to extinguish the moxa when the treatment is finished.
How to use the moxa stick
1. Urinate before beginning the moxibustion procedure. Since the moxibustion used to treat breech babies stimulates your bladder meridian, you may experience an overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom before you are done performing the technique.
2. Take off your shoes and socks, and sit in an upright position with your feet raised in front of you. You should be able to reach your toes comfortably. In this way you can do both points at the same time. If you (like I did at 36 weeks) have a hard time sitting and reaching my toes you can get a helper to perform the moxa for you.
3. Light your moxa stick by simply lighting one end with a cigarette lighter or by holding over a candle flame. It may take several minutes to light correctly but when the stick is correctly lit, you will be able to hold the lit end two to three centimeters from the back of your hand and feel a pleasant radiating warmth.
4. Hold the lit end of the stick over the area to be treated, maintaining a distance of at least two to three centimeters so that there is never any direct contact with the skin.
5. The moxa stick is then moved slowly over the area being treated, this will begin to feel pleasantly warm.
6. When using to turn a breech or posterior positioned baby, the therapeutic time for moxa use is 20 minutes for each acupuncture point. For a total of 40 minutes if each point is done individually. During this time the moxa is briefly lifted away from the point Bladder 67 or Zhiyin BL- 67 (found on the outside corner of the nail of the little toe) each time it becomes hot before resuming treatment this is called “the pecking technique”.
7. You may feel your baby wiggling and moving as you perform the moxa technique. This is normal and expected and this is why using positional or water therapies directly after a moxa treatment will increase it’s effectiveness.
8. Any ash that forms on the end of the stick can be gently brushed off by using the edge of the small dish, so that the moxa stick remains hot. If you suspect there is no longer any heat coming off the moxa stick, check by holding it two to three centimeters away from the back of your hand. Re-light if there is no radiating warmth. Never touch the lighted end of a moxa stick even if it no longer appears to be glowing.
9. When treatment has finished, place the moxa stick in a glass jar with sand in it and screw the lid firmly on so that the moxa stick is deprived of oxygen and cannot continue to burn. The moxa stick can then be re-lit for repeated treatments according to the instructions you received from your Naturopathic Doctor or midwife. General recommendations are to repeat this treatment once a day for 10 days in conjunction with other non invasive techniques such as chiropractic, homeopathic, heat therapy, positional therapy, hydrotherapy. Please ask your Naturopathic Doctor for more information.
Adapted from: “The Essential guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth” by Debra Betts © 2010
Warning. You have been given traditional herbal moxa. It is quite smoky and should be used in a well ventilated area to prevent excessive inhalation of the smoke. It also has a very distinct smell and is often mistaken for other “herbs” that are commonly burned. You may want to let your neighbours know that you are trying to turn a baby with moxa and not up to something else. If traditional moxa is difficult for you to use it is possible to obtain “smokeless moxa” however, there is some debate as to the effectiveness of smokeless moxa in the turning of breech babies.