Burning the Umbilical Cord

I first heard about umbilical cord burning from my doula. She suggested that it could be a ceremonial way to celebrate a baby’s final separation from her mother.

I wasn’t totally convinced but my interest was piqued enough for me to go looking for more information on the Internet. I had no questions about its safety. After all, it’s the way umbilical cords are severed in places where sterile instruments are not available.

It just kind of felt like another “thing”, you know? And I needed to be convinced it was something I wanted in case the midwives who came took issue with it. I definitely knew I did not want a hospital clamp, though, and this was one alternative.

Burning the umbilical cord

We actually ended up going with burning the umbilical cord because I was very disorganised. I lost the embroidery threads I was going to use to braid a cord tie and procrastinated about getting them replaced. So, cord burning by default.

Umbilical cord burning

Decision made, I looked forward to it, thinking I might say a prayer while we were burning it. Laurence wasn’t keen so it was supposed to be the doula and me but when it came to it, I was completely exhausted so they did it while I lay back and awkwardly snapped these shots.

Laurence burning the umbilical cord

On one hand, it was beautiful and did feel significant. Also, there was no need to worry about the midwives. They just kind of let us get on with it.

The cord was tied with a ribbon (embroidery thread would have been better), the placenta placed in a bowl and two candles held to the umbilical cord over a bowl to catch the wax.

It took a long time, though. I didn’t realise this until Laurence told me tonight that it took about thirty minutes! He found it stressful because we were waiting for an ambulance to arrive and had no idea when it would. Also, there were concerns over Ophelia’s temperature. Ah well.

As it healed, the umbilical cord got rather smelly. I thought I’d mention that as I couldn’t find much information on this anywhere. It wasn’t a problem at all and the midwife who discharged us from the hospital (we transferred after our home birth) said it was just because of the burning. It’s healed really nicely. The cord fell off on day six.

Having done it, I’m glad we did it but, being totally honest, I’m not sure we’d choose cord burning again.

Circus Queen is a finalist in The MAD Blog Awards. Please vote for me to win “Best Pregnancy Blog”.


    • March 31, 2014 / 6:33 pm

      Please do! I considered a lotus birth but couldn’t quite get my head into it. I’d be interested to hear a real life story (and see pics if you have any) even though I’m not planning on having any more babies.

  1. March 26, 2014 / 8:36 am

    I haven’t heard of cord burning before. You’ve made it look and sound very beautiful and peaceful, but I don’t think it’s for me. I do, however, think celebrating the separation of mother and baby in some way is very important, even if it is simply a moment, prayer or recorded sentiment.
    Eleanor (thebristolparent) recently posted..Hand, foot and mouth disease, my experiences

  2. March 26, 2014 / 8:45 am

    It looks very beautiful, I’ve heard of it before, so glad that your midwifes were supportive
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  3. March 26, 2014 / 9:56 am

    I’ve never heard of this before! And the thought of me suggesting it to Matt does make me laugh a bit, he is so squeamish and would probably pass out if he knew about this! He’s even banned me from talking about periods (after an incident where I told him I needed to boil my moon cup!!) x
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  4. March 26, 2014 / 3:21 pm

    I’ve never even heard of this before! Like Jess I can totally imagine Tom’s face if I suggested this to him, especially the eye roll he would do 😉 I think it’s beautiful to have a little ceremony about the detachment though. Also very impressed you managed to take pics just after giving birth! x
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  5. March 26, 2014 / 6:19 pm

    All three of mine had the NHS clip, and I’ve kept them, dry stump still on 🙂 I wish I had known about donating the cord to stem cell research because that is what I would have done. I suggested it to one friend recently, but she wanted to dry hers out and make it into a hanging heart for the kitchen window…
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  6. March 26, 2014 / 7:05 pm

    This looks lovely and I”m glad you marked the seperation of mother from baby in some way. I’ve not, we’ve had the awful nhs clip lol as medical issues got in the way so options were taken away from us, not sure what I would have done having the choice, but thanks for making me think! Interestingly before having kids I was so worried about the cord…I had hated my baby sisters when she was a newborn so worried I would feel the same with my babies but of course maternal love overcomes squeamishness! lol xxx
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  7. March 26, 2014 / 7:12 pm

    I’ve never even heard of this before, but it does sound like it takes a long time! I’ve read so many things about birth since Theo was born, and it makes me really want to do it all over again just to experience a different, better (if possible) birth!
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  8. March 26, 2014 / 7:15 pm

    I think Ben would completely freak out, if I suggested this and everyone else would think I’ve totally lost it, but it sounds like a beautiful little ritual and will certainly be an experience that will create great discussions x
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  9. March 26, 2014 / 7:46 pm

    I’ve never heard of cord burning before. I think I would be too scared of the flame, I’m a very over-cautious (neurotic..?) mother. We had the clamp, and that was terrifying also, uch. I’m not sure what I’d do next time. I found that after the birth, I was too exhausted to think about or argue about anything anyway 🙁 x
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  10. March 26, 2014 / 11:43 pm

    Welldone on getting into the finals of the MADS! Really interesting post – I know what you mean about another “thing” – there always seems to be some kind of new way to do things, more natural, more modern, more traditional etc but I have to say this does look quite lovely and if had known about it would of love to have known more.

    Laura x
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  11. March 27, 2014 / 8:42 am

    certainly something i’ve never heard of! i like the ceremony of it, but i don’t think it’s something i’d want to do if i ever had a child. it’s good that people were on board with it though and you got to do it 🙂
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  12. March 27, 2014 / 1:50 pm

    I’ve never heard of this before! Amazed that you managed to go through with it after all the big event of giving birth and meeting your daughter. What a story to tell her x.

  13. March 27, 2014 / 2:45 pm

    I’d never heard of cord burning before but it does look beautiful.

  14. April 19, 2014 / 11:43 pm

    I have never even heard of this as an option but it is very interesting. The hospital clamps are a pain and meant that we didn’t want to use cloth nappies at the beginning as it didn’t look as comfortable around the cord so it is great to see the alternatives.
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