How Did the Umbilical Cord Get Cut in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, the process of childbirth was a very different experience than it is today. One aspect of childbirth that has evolved over time is the way in which the umbilical cord was cut. Let’s explore some of the ways in which this process was carried out in ancient times.

What is the Umbilical Cord?

Before we delve into how the umbilical cord was cut in ancient times, let’s first understand what it is. The umbilical cord is a flexible tube-like structure that connects a developing fetus to its mother’s placenta. It supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus and removes waste products from its blood.

Ancient Methods of Cutting the Umbilical Cord

In many cultures throughout history, cutting the umbilical cord was considered a sacred and important ritual. However, due to limited medical knowledge and resources, many methods used to cut the cord were crude and unhygienic.

One common method involved using a sharp object such as a piece of flint or obsidian to sever the cord. This practice was prevalent among indigenous tribes in Africa, South America, and Australia. In some cases, animal teeth or shells were used as well.

Another method involved burning through the cord with hot coals or an ember from a fire. This was practiced by Native American tribes in North America.

In some parts of Asia and Europe, midwives would use their teeth to bite through the umbilical cord after sterilizing their mouths with alcohol or other substances.

Challenges Faced with Ancient Methods

While these methods may have been effective at separating the baby from its placenta, they posed significant risks to both mother and child. The use of unsterilized sharp objects could lead to infection or tetanus.

Burning through the cord could cause burns on both mother and child, leading to further complications. The use of teeth to cut the cord could also lead to infection and the spread of disease.

Modern Methods of Cutting the Umbilical Cord

Today, cutting the umbilical cord is a quick and straightforward procedure carried out by medical professionals using sterile equipment. In most cases, the cord is clamped and cut with surgical scissors within a few minutes after birth. This helps prevent infections and ensures a safe separation of mother and child.


The way in which the umbilical cord was cut in ancient times may seem barbaric by today’s standards, but it was the best method available at that time. The evolution of medical knowledge and technology has led to safer and more hygienic practices that ensure the health and wellbeing of both mother and child.