An en caul birth, also known as a “mermaid birth” or “veiled birth”, is when the baby comes out still inside or partially wrapped in the amniotic sac. This happens in only 1 in 80,000 births, making it extremely rare.1 It might look like your newborn is completely gift-wrapped in a soft bubble.
The amniotic sac is made up of two layers of membranes and filled with amniotic fluid which the baby has been floating inside of during the entire pregnancy. Usually when you’re about to go into labor your amniotic sac ruptures – your water breaks. If the water doesn’t break, the baby is born en caul, usually inside the inner layer of membrane or just partially covered.
During birth and right after, baby stays safe, having everything they need inside the amniotic sac, which is then carefully removed by the midwife or doctor. Sometimes a squirming baby, may even break open the amniotic sac on their own. If the sac is already ruptured or only partially covering baby it is easily removed, though more care should be taken if baby is born with the outer membrane still intact.
Midwife Julie Shares the Story of Vera’s En Caul Birth
It was incredible to catch these images right after Vera was born. I loved removing the sac, and unveiling her face. We didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl until she was born. I remember seeing her body inside the sac and it ruptured just enough for me to see her sex as I brought her to my chest. I was shocked and elated to see she was a girl and that it looked as though she was wearing a beautiful cream shawl around her shoulders. This is truly her personality- she is regal in every sense of the word. It made sense to see her veiled crown slide down and rest on her royal shoulders. Vera is an old, wise soul and she looks though every person she meets as if she knows more about them then they do themselves.– Julie Oates, MSN, CNM
Magical and Spiritual Abilities?
Throughout history, en caul births have been attributed with fame and fortune, even magical and spiritual abilities. In many parts of Europe, the amniotic sac, or “caul” itself held such special fortune, that it was often sold as a token of good luck and protection.2 It was provided to lawyers, needing good fortune in pleading their cases and even as an ingredient in love potions. In Old Nordic beliefs a child born en caul was said to have the special ability to navigate between many worlds and see into the future. As early as the 16th century, some physicians, finding a simple biological explanation, began to scorn any superstitious beliefs associated with en caul births.3
Whether you believe in the magical associations of an en caul birth or not, it is a beautiful thing to behold, so if your little one is born inside a water balloon, consider yourself extra fortunate! They are so rare that most midwives never witness an en caul birth in their entire careers.