Good news: En caul births, strange though they may be, are completely safe. When a baby is still sealed in the amniotic sac, she’ll be perfectly content, regardless of whether she’s inside or outside of the mother’s womb. In fact, said baby will behave just as she was before delivery—taking practice breaths by drinking in amniotic fluid and staying nourished through the umbilical cord. Alas, this must ultimately come to an end: “At some point, the amniotic sac must be opened, to allow separation of the baby and the placenta by cutting the umbilical cord,” Dr. Kashani explains. The amniotic sac and placenta are separated from the baby and from there the medical team does what it would do during any other birth—namely making sure the baby takes its first breaths outside the bubble and shows stable vital signs.
Caul vs. en caul: what’s the difference?
These two might sound like the same thing but they’re actually quite different. “A caul birth involves delivery of the baby, as well as a portion of the amniotic sac,” says Dr. Kashani. “Often, there may be a clear film that is the membrane from the amniotic sac. This can cover a portion of the body of the baby, and it must gently be separated from the baby.” In other words, the amniotic sac is present but there’s no water balloon spectacle in a caul birth because it has already been broken. This type of birth is far more common than an en caul birth, but pretty special, nonetheless. Babies born with a caul (not en caul) are said to be born with a veil, helmet or bonnet—all ways of describing the thin piece of amniotic membrane that managed to stay attached to the baby throughout labor and delivery, only to be gently removed shortly thereafter.