Birth in the Caul

It is rare and special for a baby to be born in the caul.  It’s also known as ‘born in the veil’ because the membrane covers the baby’s face like a veil at birth.

Caul- the amniotic membrane enclosing a fetus.
Caul- The amniotic membrane enclosing a fetus.

Benefits of strong water bag

To be born in the caul is the result of a strong amniotic membrane that doesn’t break.  There are many physical benefits to an intact water bag including decreased infection, protection of the umbilical cord, and more freedom of movement for the baby.

How to have a strong water bag

The best known method for an expectant mother to grow a strong waterbag is to eat a diet high in Vit C, amino acids lysine and proline and phytonutrients.

Spiritual benefits of birth in the caul

Beyond the physical benefits, there are long standing beliefs about the spiritual gifts of caul births.  Supposedly these people inherit the gift of clairvoyance and healing abilities.

Legend tells us the “caul carriers” can never drown and are able to divine sources of underground water.  Best of all, birth in the caul bestows overall good fortune to these chosen ones. Parents and midwives used to save the membrane and keep it for the child for good luck and protection.  It’s possible to put the membrane a locket or wear it as an amulet.

Superstition and persecution

It’s not all good news though.  During the medieval inquisition, the inquisitors accused “caul bearers” of heresy,  along with midwives and healers, for suspicion of witchcraft and supernatural powers.  The penalties for heresy at that time were various tortures and punishments, including burning at the stake. In spite of persecution and torture, caul births have survived.

Modern birth in the caul

Even in modern times, we continue to recognize the rarity of caul births and respect them as such.  The majority of babies are born in hospitals nowadays, and attended by obstetricians. Only 9% of births are attended by midwives in the U.S.  Since doctors are more likely to artificially rupture the membranes to hurry along the birth, caul births are more and more rare.

We midwives still have the good luck to attend caul births because we do not routinely break the water bag.  It’s not our practice to rush the birth and we respect the benefits of the intact water bag. Allowing the membrane to remain intact increases the likelihood for a baby to birth in the caul.

How to deliver a baby in the caul

If the baby births in the caul, we simply wipe or peel the membrane from the face so the baby can draw his or her first breath.
Influenced by our predecessors, we modern people continue to unconsciously believe birthing in the caul bestows certain good qualities.
If we check, a lot of us believe caul babies and waterbabies, their waterbirth siblings, are lucky and have an affinity for water.  We might even believe they will grow to be talented swimmers, surfers and water people.

Caul birth and water birth

Nowadays many birthing women instinctively choose to birth in the water.  Water births and caul births are virtually the same because both result in the baby born in water.

Surfer
Surfer

Women can’t give precise reasons for their interest in water birth but I suspect their  unconscious attraction to it grew out of our ancestors  folklore about birth in the caul.

Would you like your baby to be born in the caul or in the water?

NY Times Midwife Article