Generally, after the placenta is birthed, the umbilical cord is cut using scissors and a plastic clamp is then applied. Another practice is cord burning, where instead of cutting, the umbilical cord is heated under safe conditions until the cord separates. An alternative name for this is sacred severance (Williams 2017).
Cord burning has been practiced for centuries, mainly in the Chinese cultures (Lim & Miyuki 2015). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, chi is considered the life force within the body. Cord burning was believed to help the chi move from placenta to baby. Lim also recounts a conversation with a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, who stated that cord burning brings the element of fire into the birth process, which manifests in baby’s improved wellbeing and the mother’s increased recovery time and breastmilk supply.
Williams (2017) describes that cord burning is having a resurgence in the West. Generally, the umbilical cord is laid out stretched away from the baby. The placenta is placed in a bowl. Either one or two candles are placed underneath the cord so that the flame may burn through the tissue. Often, the candles are held by family members or significant people in the baby's life. To keep the baby safe, a guard is placed between the flame and baby. The burning takes around 20 mins.
The reason cord burning has been popular is that it is a much more sterile severance than scissors. There is little to no risk of infection when the umbilical cord has been singed. Lim (2015) recounts her time in Aceh, Indonesia when the tsunami struck and midwives and birth attendants did not have sterilised supplies. The method of detachment Lim taught others was cord burning which was effective and hygienic.