What is a Mermaid Birth?

What is a Mermaid Birth?

As you near your delivery date, you come across numerous wives tales on how to increase your chances of normal birth. You hear some children exit the womb still encased in a water bubble! Which makes you wonder: what is a mermaid birth, and how is it even possible?

Also known as a veiled birth or en caul birth, it is called a mermaid birth because the child is born wrapped in the amniotic sac. It occurs due to the water failing to break during labor, and some communities attribute spiritual abilities to such births.

If it’s the first time you’ve come across mermaid births, read on to find out what they are and what different societies think of them.

So, What is a Mermaid Birth?

Mermaid birth is not to be confused with mermaid syndrome. The latter is seen when babies are born with their legs partially or totally fused. It is also a bit different from a caul birth (more on this later on). Let’s see how a mermaid birth comes about.

The amniotic sac (scientifically referred to as caul or amnion) is a thin, fluid-filled sac that envelopes the developing fetus during pregnancy. The function serves to protect the fetus from harm and regulates the temperature so they can stay warm even when it’s cold outside.

You see, the amniotic sac is composed of two layers of membranes that are filled with a viscous fluid: the amniotic sac ruptures when you begin labor, and your water breaks. If the water does not break, the baby is born ”en caul”, which is partially covered or completely inside the jelly-like bubble.

Cesarean-birthed babies are often delivered en caul. The condition is only rare in normal vaginal births, as the water usually breaks before or during the onset of labor.

Several people, however, claim that when the baby is born only partially covered by the amnion, it is not considered a mermaid birth, rather a caul birth.

En Caul Birth vs. Caul Birth 

We already know what an en caul birth is, but what about a caul birth? Aren’t they the same? No, there’s a small difference. 

A baby born with a section of the amniotic sac or membrane enveloping the head or face is a caul birth. It appears as if the newborn is wearing a veil. 

A doctor or a midwife can remove the membrane from the newborn without complication. When it happens during a home birth, the mother can be guided to extract it safely (how memorable it must be for such lucky women). Another key difference is caul births are more prevalent, unlike mermaid births (en caul births). 

Ancient and Modern Beliefs About Mermaid Birth

These types of births are extremely rare. Much so that most midwives go through their entire career without ever witnessing one. Statistics show that it occurs once in every 80,000 births. Due to this, there is widespread speculation surrounding mermaid births. Some beliefs derived from earlier centuries are effective even today in some places.

Here are some beliefs I have gathered that try to debunk the meaning of mermaid birth

  • Ancient Romans believed that the membrane would bring fame and fortune to its owner.
  • In Hungary, male children born ”helmeted” were more likely to die by the noose.
  • Some people turned their cauls into heirlooms that they passed down through generations. For instance, Sir John Offley had his encased in a gold jewel. He passed it to his daughter upon his death. And as requested in his 1658 will, it should be passed on to the males of succeeding generations. 
  • In Yugoslavia, it was presumed that a child born with a dark caul would grow up to be a witch or sorceress. 
  • In Austria, children born in this manner were said to be selected by Providence to serve in a monastery or convent.
  • The caul is preserved in a jar and handed to the parents among the Yoruba of West Africa.
  • Some communities in Iceland think it means the child will become a clairvoyant.
  • In modern society, supernatural significance is attached to en caul and caul births. These children are said to develop spiritual abilities like foresight.

Anecdotal evidence exists that seems to substantiate claims of spiritual abilities in mermaid births. But no scientific proof can support this. 

Is a Mermaid Birth Dangerous?

Short answer: No! Babies aren’t harmed or at any increased risk from a mermaid birth. Children born via c-section are often delivered en caul as the membrane protects the newborn from trauma. 

So the next time someone asks you, ”What is a mermaid birth”, let them know it is nothing worth losing sleep over, rather the opposite – an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Can You Make Your Water Break?

Numerous housewives tales imply it’s possible to induce your waters to break. However, none has been approved by science. 

In a hospital setting, the obstetric practitioner could perform an amniotomy. It is also referred to as an artificial rupture of membranes (AROM). And just as the name suggests, this is a simple procedure that aims to initiate and induce labor pain in pregnant women. 

During an amniotomy, a physician inserts a plastic rod with a hook end through the vagina and guides it to the amniotic sac. They then apply gentle force to rupture the amnion. The woman feels a warm rush of fluid as the sac opens due to water bursting. The liquid may be odorless or colorless. It may also contain the first fecal matter of the fetus or have a bloody tint. 

The Bottom Line

If you were wondering, “What is a mermaid birth?” You have all the answers. The next time someone suggests you go on a bumpy drive or start binging on loads of pineapples and spicy curry to make your water break, you might want to reconsider. You could be one among 80,000 women to experience this rare mystery of life.