An en caul birth occurs when a baby is born inside an unruptured amniotic sac. The amniotic sac and amniotic fluid still encase the baby and the placenta. A woman’s water hasn’t broken, and her little one has not made his way out of the protective cover before emerging from the womb.
En caul births are fascinating because they are rare and because the baby arrives with everything he needs, having brought his sac with him.
However, there are risks with any birth, but there can also be some advantages to en caul deliveries.
What Is an En Caul Birth?
An en caul birth occurs when a woman’s water doesn’t break before the baby exits the uterus and enters the world.
The baby is born inside the amniotic sac, attached to the placenta, and possibly even unaware he has left the mom’s body.
When Does the Amniotic Sac Break in a Normal Delivery?
In a normal delivery, the amniotic sac breaks anywhere from 24 hours before birth to right up to when you are in labor.
It varies for each woman, but once your water breaks, your doctor will want to make sure your baby starts making his way into the world.
Some doctors will even break a woman’s water in order to get labor moving. If this happens, your baby definitely won’t be born en caul.
Caul Birth vs. En Caul Birth
An en caul birth means the baby is completely encased in the amniotic sac when he is born. En caul births mean the sac is completely unruptured.
A caul birth is when the sac covers the baby’s head or face, but he is not completely wrapped up in it. In a caul birth, doctors will carefully remove the caul from the baby’s face or head after he emerges from the womb.
Why Are Babies Born En Caul?
There are different theories for why babies are born en caul.
Some believe that certain birthing methods, like hypnobirthing, make en caul births more possible because women aren’t induced and aren’t pushing until they are ready.
It’s also possible for a baby to be born en caul when a C-section is performed and the doctor doesn’t rupture the sac when he cuts into the mom.
Many babies born en caul are born prematurely. Their bodies aren’t ready to live outside of the amniotic sac, and the water doesn’t break like regular labor.
Babies born en caul prematurely face the same risks as premature babies born without the caul.
How Rare Are En Caul Births?
En caul births are extremely rare. Only 1 in every 80,000 births produces a baby born entirely en caul. However, some in the midwife community think this number may be higher.
Are En Caul Babies Special?
It’s rare for a child to be born en caul, so that experience feels special in itself. However, there is nothing that makes an en caul baby more special than any other baby.
You’ll just have a great story to tell about their entrance into the world. You also may have some amazing birth pictures if anyone is able to get a shot while your baby is still en caul.
What Does an En Caul Birth Signify?
In some cultures, an en caul birth is considered good luck for the parents and the baby. It’s looked at as a magical experience that carries heavy spiritual weight.
Most every culture views this phenomenon as rare enough to be exceptional.
However, it usually doesn’t signify anything and can feel less lucky if the reason your child was born en caul is because he was premature.
Are There Benefits to an En Caul Birth?
There may be some benefits to an en caul birth. Remaining fully encased in the amniotic sac can protect your baby on his journey through the birth canal. The baby may experience less bruising or scrapes during birth.
Since the baby is encased in the sac with his umbilical cord, the chances of a prolapsed cord are greatly reduced during an en caul birth.
Prolapsed cords can lead to dangerous outcomes for the baby, so this is a great added protection when your baby arrives still in his sac.
Possible Complications of En Caul Birth
It’s hard to separate the risks of en caul birth from the risk of preterm birth since most en caul births involve premature babies.
A premature birth can cause respiratory distress and other issues, but that is true whether a baby is born en caul or not.
En caul births have not been studied enough to know what risks are specific to this type of birth.
Can a Baby Be Born En Caul With a Cesarean?
A baby can be born en caul with a Cesarean. In fact, you can even ask your doctor to keep your baby en caul if you are planning on having a C-section.
Your doctor will have to make sure not to cut into the amniotic sac during the birth.
Can a Full-Term Baby Be Born En Caul?
A full-term baby can be born en caul, but it is very, very rare. By the time your baby is full term, he’s going to be large enough to rupture the sac on the way out of the womb in almost every situation.
However, full-term babies can still be born en caul.
What Happens After a Baby Is Born En Caul?
After a baby is born en caul, your doctor or midwife will gently remove your baby from the amniotic sac. Your baby may actually do this on his own if his movements break the sac.
He may be partially out of your body when the sac ruptures from the pressure, and that will take care of the en caul situation.
How Long Can a Baby Survive En Caul?
Some evidence shows that a baby has lived an extra 25 minutes en caul and been just fine.
However, doctors don’t leave babies en caul to see what happens, so we don’t know if this is a good idea or if they can survive longer.
Can a Baby Break Open the Sac on Their Own After Birth?
Yes, your baby may break open the sac on their own after birth.
There’s also a chance that the sac will rupture during birth, and that can be tricky since your baby will be slick and there will be a rush of fluids that isn’t expected as your doctor or midwife tries to grab the little one.
What Famous People Were Born En Caul?
There are some famous people who experienced fully en caul births.
- Lord Byron
- David Copperfield
- Sigmund Freud
- Joseph Smith
An en caul birth is rare and miraculous. While every birth is spectacular, en caul births are rare enough to be unique and magical in their own way.
A successful and safe delivery of a healthy baby should be your goal. If your baby is born in a unique way, then that’s just an added blessing.
Kristy is the mother of four, including identical twins. With a background in education and research, she is constantly learning more about parenting and raising multiples. When she has spare time, she enjoys hiking into the woods with a great book to take a break.