31 October 2009

The Placenta & Cord Burning

In Balinese culture (and many other cultures around the world) the placenta is considered sacred. At the clinic, this is respected and the cord is not cut for a while, if at all.

Some women choose "lotus birth" - when the cord is never cut and the baby is separated from his placenta when his cord loosens and falls off. However, most women choose for the cord to be cut within the day because the placenta can be given as an offering in their family temple. The placenta, cord, and flowers (placed right after the birth) are wrapped and placed in a ceramic jar and are eventually buried.

How does the clinic honor this? After the birth, the midwives wait a minimum of 3 hours. Then the cord is cleaned at the cutting site, clamped, cut, and then checked for 3 vessels. The only time a cord would be cut sooner (never immediately at the birth) would be if the baby needs to be transferred to the hospital or if the health department was coming. The health department does not understand or respect delayed cord clamping and cutting.

If not chosing a lotus birth or cutting after 3 hours, there is another option: the parents will have the cord burnt. This is an amazing sight! I now know how to do this and have had the priviledge of doing it for one of my clients.

To burn the cord, two small pieces of cardboard, each with a narrow slit cut into it, are place around the cord to protect the baby's stomach. The mother usually places her hand behind the cardboard to make sure it doesn't get too hot. Then the cord is stretched over a bowl and held in place as one of the midwives and the father hold a candle on each side and begin to burn the cord. They again sing the Gayatri Mantra. The cord hisses and pops and smokes, and in about 10 - 15 minutes, it chars and breaks off. Less than 10cm is left on the baby. The candles are placed, still burning, upright into the wax at the bottom of the bowl and remain burning until they burn down to nothing. Blowing out a candle can signify blowing out a life.

Not only is cord burning a spiritual or religious decision, it is also a safe decision. There is no chance for tetanus by cutting it. This method can be done in any birth setting around the world, especially in countries where there are no instruments for cutting a cord or no way to sterilize the instruments. Newborn babies like cord burning as well. A screaming baby turns instantly quiet and alert and dozes off during the cord burning.

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At 3:10 AM, Blogger Amity said...

Inspiring practice! Thanks for sharing.

At 7:53 AM, Blogger Regine Parteiranagua said...

Hi Erin!!

This is Regine from Brazil,,, Thinking of introducing the same thing here,, been a long since I have a cord right away.... Robin also gave me her wonderful book...

Lots of love!! Regine Marton MS CNM

At 2:14 AM, Blogger JJ said...

I so wish UNICEF would teach this low-cost, low-tech, low-risk technique, instead of sending out mass-emails about tetanus shots being the only way to prevent postpartum tetanus infections.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Crystal T said...

Thank you for sharing! Keep spreading the info about cord burning =) it will help to save many lives!!


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