The umbilical cord is more than just an essential part of pregnancy, as it has a wide range of symbolic meanings in many different cultures around the world. It is often seen as a strong bond between mother and baby, while also carrying with it religious and spiritual implications. 

In many cultures, the cutting of the umbilical cord is believed to be an integral part of childbirth. It is seen as a time-honored tradition that marks new beginnings, carries with it spiritual meanings, and symbolizes a mother’s unconditional love for her baby. The various umbilical cord cutting traditions observed around the world range from simple snips on the umbilical cord with scissors or symbolic knives, to blessing ceremonies and prayers of gratitude for a safe delivery.

Why is cutting the umbilical cord such a big deal?

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord serves as a tether between you and your baby. It not only connects your little one to its placenta, but it’s also the superhighway transporting all the nutrients that your growing baby needs. Later in pregnancy, the umbilical cord will also transport antibodies to your baby as well.

When you deliver your baby, the umbilical cord will still be attached to the navel or belly button, and traditionally, the cord is clamped immediately after birth. Still, some parents may opt for delayed cord clamping (DCC), which allows more time for blood to travel from the placenta to the baby. Your doctor or midwife can help you decide between immediate cord clamping and DCC.

In the United States, it’s a common tradition for the father or non-birthing parent to help the doctor clamp and cut the umbilical cord. This practice can be a great way for the non-pregnant partner to jump-start their emotional connection to their child and be directly involved in the delivery process.

Countries and cultures all around the world recognize the symbolic importance of cutting the baby’s umbilical cord, and many cultures have unique traditions to help commemorate this special moment.

Countries and cultures all around the world recognize the symbolic importance of cutting the baby’s umbilical cord.

Umbilical cord traditions in Japan

In Japanese culture, many believe that the umbilical cord directly impacts the baby's health. So, when a mother gives birth in Japan, the hospital will usually give her a special box to preserve the cord after it falls from the baby’s belly button. 

Parents typically save and protect the umbilical cord stump in hopes that it will help keep their child out of harm’s way. Some may give the stump to their son or daughter when it’s time for them to move out or get married — a symbol of the adult child gaining independence.

Mexican customs for cutting the umbilical cord

In Mexican culture, it’s common to save the umbilical cord stump in a special box after it falls from the baby’s belly button. Then, when the child is around three or four, they choose where they want to bury it.

This Mexican custom helps the child set down roots in the community that raised them, symbolizing a permanent connection with their heritage that follows them wherever they go. Whether they stay in their hometown their whole life or move hundreds of miles away, they’ll always have a link to their birthplace.

Cutting the umbilical cord in Native American culture 

Many Native American cultures also practice the preservation of the umbilical cord after a baby is born. In some cultures, the umbilical cord stump is buried as soon as it falls off. In others, it’s dried and saved as a link between the womb and the child as they grow up. 

For decades and centuries, it was custom to sew the umbilical cord stump into a special amulet, often shaped like a turtle (for girls) or lizard (for boys). Parents would then give the talisman to the child as a protective charm that could be worn as a necklace or attached to their clothes.

No matter where you’re from, cutting the umbilical cord is an emotionally important part of welcoming your baby into the world. To make sure this moment is every bit as special as you imagine, talk with your partner and doctor beforehand to make sure everyone’s on the same page about when and how to cut the cord.

Still a ways away from delivery? Check out our Juno Birch™ Fetal Gender Test to learn how you can find out your baby’s sex from the comfort of your own home.

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Please note: and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

September 29, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock