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What Is En Caul Birth? Kashmir Reports First Ever Case Of 'Veiled' Childbirth

As per a report in Rising Kashmir, the first case of "en caul" birth has been reported in the Kashmir valley at the Budgam District hospital. The birth, also referred to as mermaid or veiled birth, was a full-term baby with a birth weight of 3.3 kilograms following a surgical intervention by Dr Sanjeed Kawoosa and her staff [1].

The mother and the baby are both doing well. No postpartum complications have been reported in any of the cases.

What Is En Caul Birth?

An en caul birth occurs when the baby emerges from the womb inside an intact amniotic sac (caul). As the sac balloons during birth, the child remains inside the unbroken or partially broken membrane. The result might appear to be that your newborn is completely encased in a soft, jello-like bubble. Abdominal or caesarean en caul births may be done intentionally using surgical techniques. Vaginal en caul deliveries are rare and occur spontaneously [2][3].

Less than one in 80,000 births result in an en caul birth.

What Causes En Caul Birth?

Births by caul are less common during vaginal delivery than during caesarean sections (C-sections). This is because the amniotic sac ruptures typically when your waters break, which indicates you are about to go into labour. Being induced to go into labour also usually ruptures the sac [4].

Sometimes a woman can go into labour without the sac breaking, and a baby is born en caul. During caesarean deliveries, doctors usually lift the baby out of the amniotic sac. However, they can sometimes opt to deliver the baby along with the amniotic sac en caul.

What Happens During En Caul Birth?

A foetus born en caul remains within the amniotic sac throughout labour and delivery, either vaginally or through a caesarean section. Vaginal births en caul are most rare because caesarean births en caul are often performed deliberately by doctors using surgical techniques [5].

What Happens After The Baby Is Born? Are There Any Risks To The Newborn?

In the event that your child is born en caul, your healthcare provider will gently snip away at the sac to open it as if you were opening a water-filled bag. As soon as a baby is born, the sac begins to drain water. As a result, the sac shrinks a little. In the womb and right after birth, your baby will have access to plenty of air and all other necessities. The umbilical cord (attached to the belly button) contains oxygen-rich blood.

Are There Any Benefits To En Caul Birth?

  • Some experts believe that an en caul delivery may protect a foetus that is deemed at high risk.
  • The amniotic sac serves as a buffer between the unborn foetus and the forces experienced during labour and delivery. This may prevent bruising in the foetus during contractions [6].
  • It is also beneficial to prevent cord prolapse, which occurs when the umbilical cord slips into the cervix in front of (or below) the foetus and is squeezed by the foetus.
  • In addition, an en caul vaginal delivery reduces the risk of the foetus' head becoming stuck if the cervix is not sufficiently dilated.
  • Caesarean sections (C-sections) may also be performed en caul in cases of low-birth-weight infants [7].

What Are Complications Of En Caul Birth?

The risks of a preterm en caul birth are similar to those associated with preterm births that do not occur en caul. Complications of an en caul birth may include the following [8]:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sepsis
  • Haemorrhage
  • A caesarean section performed en caul may also result in anaemia in the newborn

En Caul Birth Vs Normal Birth

Caul births differ from en caul births. A caul birth, also known as a baby born with the caul, occurs when a small section of membrane covers the face or head. The baby is born with a thin, transparent, organic hat (or cowl scarf). The hat is very easy to remove. Doctors or midwives will quickly peel it off or snip it in just the right place to remove it [9].

Nevertheless, en caul births are not very different from other types of deliveries. During vaginal delivery, the main difference is that you will not feel your water breaking. An unplanned en caul birth occurs entirely by chance during vaginal delivery. During this type of birth, a baby born early (preterm or premature) is more likely to be en caul than a baby born at full term.

There is no clear evidence to suggest that having an en caul birth is better than a normal birth. Therefore, it is not something that you should request or seek [10].

Are En Caul Births Common?

En caul births are very rare. By some estimates, it is believed that en caul births would be 1 per cent to 2 per cent of all vaginal deliveries if there were no membranes that were artificially ruptured. This amounts to less than one in 80,000 births.

'Spiritual' Significance Of En Caul Birth

En caul births are considered to be spiritual or even magical by some cultures and traditions.
Both parents and babies are thought to benefit from being born en caul. Parents and midwives in some cultures dry the caul and keep it as a good luck charm.

Story first published: Friday, November 26, 2021, 21:08 [IST]
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