An ob-gyn explains why this kind of birth happens.

By Samantha Lauriello
February 19, 2019

As a birth photographer, Janaina Oliveira has watched a lot of newborns get welcomed into the world. But she recently captured something on camera that few people ever witness: a baby being born inside the amniotic sac. 

The mother, Monyck Valasco, gave birth to a baby boy, named Noah, in Brazil last month. The amniotic sac that protects a developing baby in the womb usually pops right before birth (you know, when a woman's water breaks). But Valasco's never did...and little Noah was born inside a totally intact sac.

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Noah isn't the first baby to be born in the amniotic sac, but it is very rare. Only about one in every 80,000 births involve all or some part of the amniotic sac, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where doctors delivered a baby in his sac back in 2015. 

Sometimes called "en caul," amniotic-sac births can be perfectly safe for the mama and baby, as long as they both get proper care immediately after delivery. Noah, for example, is doing just fine now. 

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Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, previously told Health that the amniotic sac and the fluid inside of it cushion and protect the baby during pregnancy. She said she describes it to her patients as a type of "water balloon."

If the sac doesn’t break naturally when a woman goes into labor, doctors can deliberately puncture it at the hospital. They can also pierce through it while making an incision during a Cesarean delivery, says Dr. Greves, who has delivered en caul babies herself. In certain situations, such as with premature births, doctors will purposefully deliver babies in their sacs to protect the little one through the birth process. 

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In most births, however, the sac is delivered after the baby is born as part of the placenta. But occasionally, parts of the sac are delivered with the baby. Sometimes, a portion of the sac will get stuck on or around the baby’s head and face, resembling a helmet. (The word "caul" is derived from the Latin word for helmet.)

When a baby is born totally inside the sac, it has to be ruptured within a few minutes so the baby’s lungs can begin to take in oxygen, Dr. Greves says.

This unusual type of birth has actually been seen as a positive sign throughout history. Sometimes it's considered to be good luck, or even an indication that the child has special powers. Who knows, maybe little baby Noah will grow up to be some kind of a superhero.

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