We have several Hypnobirthing Australia™ couples who have given us permission to use their birth videos or photos in our classes for training purposes. In a discussion we had not long ago in our practitioner group we have noticed quite a few hypnobirthing babies being born “en caul” or “in the caul”.
Being born in the caul means that your baby is born with the amniotic sac (or amnion) completely intact – meaning your membranes have not broken or released, hence the term “waters breaking.”
We are not sure why, but it may be because mums are practising their relaxation techniques during their pregnancy and learning how to release stress and fear and are calmer during birth while going with their natural expulsive reflex, rather than forced pushing.
It was interesting that even one of the dads in my Hypnobirthing Australia™ classes commented that so many of our birthing videos we show in the classes showed babies being born “in the caul” when he was aware that this was a rare event.
Here is a CNN news video of a baby born “in the caul” that went viral in 2015. This was an emergency caesarean birth, and the baby was born three months premature and was receiving oxygen and nutrients from the placenta via the umbilical cord.
The footage shows a good close-up of the baby inside the sac after the birth (but not the actual caesarean for those who are squeamish).
Today that baby is a healthy young child and the mum is amazed that her baby’s birth caused such a stir in world news because it is so rare.
A vaginal birth with baby born in the caul is very rare and occurs on average less than 1 in 80,000 births.
It is even more rare in a caesarean birth because the scalpel normally cuts through the amnion. It’s not surprising that the surgeons stopped to marvel at this for a few seconds and took a photo.
Some old wives’ tales during medieval times was that a baby born in the caul were believed to have special powers and would become gifted with psychic abilities. In other parts of the world it was believed they would have lifelong luck and abundance or become leaders. Women who birthed babies in the caul would sell the membranes after birth to sailors as it was believed that the caul would protect them from evil while out at sea and prevent drowning.
Of course, these are superstitions associated with a baby born “in the caul” but I would like to provide you with some brief information about the amniotic sac, so you understand a little more about its design, as this is something I’m asked about a lot.
There are actually two sacs – one is the amnion which is the inner sac directly around the baby, and the other is the chorion, which is the outer sac that is next to the uterine wall that attaches to the amnion (amniotic sac).
The placenta consists of a foetal portion formed by the chorion and a maternal portion formed by the decidua basalis (which is the area of endometrium between the implanted chorionic vesicle and the myometrium, which becomes the maternal part of the placenta).
Occasionally parts of the sac can become stuck on or around the baby’s head and face at birth, which resembles a helmet and this is where the word “caul” comes from as it is Latin for helmet.
The chorion remains behind with the placenta still attached to the uterus when a baby is born, and that is part of the placenta when the placenta is born.
Here is a photo showing a placenta after birth, with the chorion, and the umbilical cord still attached to the placenta inside the sac.
The baby would have been safely surrounded and protected by the sac, which is what they are holding up, and this would also be holding the amniotic fluid around the baby.
The placenta (the red meaty part laying on the silver tray) would be attached to the uterus and that is the maternal side.
With placenta encapsulation, I had been removing this thin tissue and discarding it as I was taught that it does not have any benefit in the encapsulation process, however upon further research I discovered that there is now a Global Amniotic Membrane Market, as researchers have found that the membranes contain anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic properties and has been used for burns and wound healing and contains stem cells.
In this diagram, it shows you the amnion, which is directly around the baby and the chorion, which is the outer layer.
So, when the baby is born “in the caul” it means that the baby is still intact in the amnion, but the chorion would have released to allow baby to be born and would still be attached to the placenta.
Once they break open the amnion, and air stimulates the face and skin, the baby will take its first breathe of air through the mouth and trigger the lungs to start working.
Here are some excellent photos of a twin born naturally in the caul.
For those of you who would like a bit more in-depth information about the placenta and how it works you can check out this excellent video by Rishi Desai at the Khan Academy.
It is so interesting and really provides information in an easy, and visual way so you can learn so much without it being too technical.
I’ve always been fascinated by the placenta, the amniotic fluid and the development of baby from conception.
There are some incredible photos taken by Lemart Nilsson where you can see the amniotic sac, placenta and cord attachment to the placenta and uterus.
To see more of this amazing photography by Lennart Nilsson you can click on this link:
My name is Vicki Hobbs and I am a Childbirth Educator (Back to Basics Birthing), Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner, Certified VBAC Educator, Remedial Massage Therapist specialising in Pregnancy Massage, Birth & Postpartum Doula, Certified Placenta Encapsulator, Hypnotherapist, Aromatherapist, Reiki Practitioner and Life Coach. I am based in the northern suburbs of Perth and can be contacted by email by [email protected] or phone (08) 9303 9111.