42% Goan mothers bury umbilical cord of newly born children: Study

Panaji, Nov 5  Over 42 per cent mothers in Goa bury their child’s umbilical cord, after it dries and falls off, in the courtyards of their respective homes, an official study has revealed, even as the study has also advised caution against exposure of children to a smoke bath, which could rise to respiratory infections.

The study conducted on postpartum beliefs and traditions by the state Directorate of Health Services and the Goa Medical College, the state’s apex health facility has also revealed that nearly half of new mothers in Goa do not believe in applying ‘kajal’ (kohl) on their child’s faces in pursuance of the belief that its application wards off the evil eye.

“With regard to beliefs surrounding the umbilical cord, our study established that 42.5 per cent of mothers buried it in their courtyard after it dried and fell off,” the study conducted by doctors Preksha P. Vernekar, Jagadish A. Cacodcar, Minaxi Panandikar, Ira Almeida said. While Vernekar and Cacodkar are attached to the Goa Medical College, the latter two are officials of the Directorate of Health Services.

Burial of an umbilical cord, the study states, is a long-standing tradition undertaken to ensure good health and wellbeing of the newly born child.

The study however is also critical of the practice of not applying any form of dressing to the stump of the umbilical cord, which could cause infection.

“Harmful traditional cord care practices are one of the leading causes of neonatal sepsis in low and middle-income countries. The baby’s umbilical stump is prone to bacterial infections owing to the underdeveloped immune system,” the study said.

“The proclivity towards active umbilical cord care of a newborn could be utilised to inculcate positive behaviour change among the masses such as application of mild antiseptic to the cord stump and the skin around its base,” it adds.

The study, which is based on questionnaires filled by mothers who delivered babies at the South Goa District Hospital, has also advised exposing the child to smoke — a traditional purification ritual — for fear of respiratory infections.

“Thirty per cent of the study respondents exposed their newborn babies to camphor (dhoop) after bath… This practice of exposure to holy smoke after bath should ideally be avoided as it may predispose the baby to respiratory infections, breathing difficulties or even allergies in later life,” the study said.

The study also suggested that nearly half of the pregnant women in Goa, who were interviewed, did not believe in applying kajal on their child’s face to ward off the proverbial evil eye.

“In our study, strikingly, half of the study participants did not believe in seeking protection for their babies to ward off the evil eye. However, the other half applied kajal to their baby’s face,” the study said.

“Kajal (kohl) can cause itching or irritation in the eyes or can lead to infections such as blepharitis, conjunctivitis, or dacryocystitis. Fingernail trauma while applying kajal can cause conjunctival or corneal lacerations,” the study also said.

The study was conducted to highlight the need for awareness of health professionals about the popular traditional practices observed among postnatal mothers in order to eliminate possible harmful practices and reinforce beneficial practices for a healthy postpartum period for the mother.

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