Yes, you read the title of this article right!
The latest trend among some expecting couples is to have their baby born under water, with a dolphin assisting the birth!
Giving birth in or under water has been popular for some time now.
However, “dolphin assisted birth” first became famous a few years ago, when news reports of American couple Adam and Heather Barrington travelling to Hawaii to plan such a birth came out.
The Barringtons, according to Time Magazine, stayed at The Sirius Institute, an institute which facilitates dolphin assisted births and claims to have midwives who are experienced in assisting with this birthing method.
They also claim that these births are done with free dolphins in their natural habitat.
When asked by the Charlotte Observer why she had chosen such a unique way of giving birth, Heather said, “It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another.”
Dolphins are very clever mammals and their high levels of intelligence have been the focus of research for many years. But are dolphin assisted births really beneficial?
The background of dolphin-assisted births
Igor Tscharkofsy is one of the global pioneers of water birth.
According to the Sirius Institute, 20 years after developing and confirming the benefits of water birth, Tscharkofsy started to birth human babies in the Black Sea with the dolphins that lived there.
The Sirius Institute states that following these first instances of dolphin-assisted birth, some of the reported observations include a mother and baby playing with the dolphins within 45 minutes of the birth, and a dolphin escorting a newborn human baby to the surface for its first breath.
Dolphin assisted therapy is used for a range of health conditions in humans. Image from the Dolphin Assisted Therapy Facebook page
Why dolphin-assisted birth?
The Sirius Institute points out that research that has been conducted since 1976 has shown dolphins’ ability to improve or heal a number of health conditions such as cerebral palsy, depression, autism and Down’s Syndrome.
Meanwhile, underwater births in the Black Sea have been done for at least 30 years.
Reportedly, children born in the water with dolphins develop faster, especially within their first 6 months of life. They may also have 150g more brain weight and are often ambidextrous.
The Sirius Institute also states that the Hawaiian people have practised ocean births with dolphins for centuries, claiming that this way of birthing is gentle, with minimum trauma for both mother and baby.
The aforementioned reasons form the basis of the Sirius Institute’s claim that more and more people are looking towards dolphin-assisted births.
Do humans and dolphins have a special bond?
What do the experts think?
While the topic of dolphin assisted births can be quite debatable, it is safe to say this: Experts agree that dolphins — like any other wild animal — can be unpredictable, dangerous and not to be trusted near a woman in labour or a newborn child.
We also spoke to Di Bustamante, experienced doula and childbirth educator, and founder and International Director of ParentLink, for her opinion on this topic.
Regarding water birth, Di explains that it is a very gentle option for both mother and baby.
She points out that studies show that water births are safe when attended by trained maternity care providers. Contrary to some reports, Di explains that babies do not drown at water births when the conditions are safe.
Water birth is a safe and gentle way of bringing a child into this world
However, you must monitor water temperature. Water that is too hot may cause foetal distress. And water that is too cold might cause the baby to gasp at birth.
She further explains that babies do not breathe until their faces hit the air.
This is because all babies are born with the instinct to hold their breath, and the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords at the upper part of the larynx) closes when a baby’s face is in water for the first 6 months of life.
Is it a really good idea?
Di’s personal opinion is that we should leave wild animals in their own environment.
She points out that it is impossible to anticipate how a wild animal—even one as intelligent as a dolphin–will respond to human interaction. However, she believes in honouring all birthing choices.
If they have researched all the benefits and risks involved, then she would support them. And she would provide whatever emotional support they needed, no matter what the outcome.
We agree with Di, especially when it comes to respecting a mother’s choice on how she wants to give birth.
Further research has shown that birthing with dolphins might not be such a good idea after all. It also comes with the added risk of infections and drowning for both mom and baby. The sea and its creatures are a wealth of potentially harmful bacteria and pathogens.
Though there are a few centres worldwide that offer this, there is no credible science to back them up.
Ultimately, it is the individuals’ responsibility to educate themselves about the pros and cons of any birthing method.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of dolphin-assisted birth. Do share them with us by leaving a comment below.