The video title was irresistible – “Birth underwater with dolphins midwives” – so I took the plunge and watched it, all minute and a half. A haunting and contemplative piano set the mood for something you don’t see every day: a woman giving birth to her baby while standing in water up to her neck, all being filmed by an underwater camera.
Yes, there was a dolphin. But it didn’t do much except nuzzle the newborn. In fact, one handler and the mother fended away the sea creature. It wanted to help but really, what was there for it to do? The baby popped right out and the mom gently floated it to the surface for its first breath.
I half-way expected to see the funny friend bite the umbilical cord, but the video ended before they showed that part.
What really struck me was how clean the baby was after being birthed in water. The whole process looked easy – did the filmmakers edit out the tough bits?
The video got me thinking about dolphin-assisted birthing. It turns out others are following the same mental train tracks and they are ‘way ahead of me.
Tracie Egan Morrissey covered a 2008 episode of Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller’s BullShit show, featuring “a dolphin-assisted water birthing method, which is said to be very relaxing for the mother and child…”
The stage performers reached the same conclusion I did, that “it’s totally unclear as to how the dolphins really help in the birthing process, other than just swimming around.”
Morrisey revisited this trendy New Age topic in 2015. She pointed out that giving birth is no place for “a sweet and helpful dolphin, a wild animal that can weigh 400 pounds.”
Newsweek profiled Dorina Rosin and her husband Maika Suneagle who live on Hawaii’s Big Island where “they planned to rely on the unpaid and untrained help of dolphins to deliver their baby in the Pacific Ocean.”
The parents operate a spiritual healing center. Their game plan consisted of wading into the waves after Rosin started labor. The happy expecting mother said that, as an added bonus, “her baby would be able to ‘speak dolphin’ as a result of immediate exposure to the animals.”
For better or for worse, Rosin’s baby was born a land-lubber because she went into labor during the middle of the night.
A woman named Star Newland presented a paper on “Dolphin Attended Birth and Dolphin Assisted Therapy in Hawaii” to the Hawaiian Governor’s Advisory Council. She believes:
“Gentle gestation and birth are important for ensuring good social outcomes. Babies gestated and born optimally have a positive imprint on their world and this generates a feeling of connection and trust that is reflected in their later life.”
Underwater birth, according to Newland, promotes domestic harmony and can prevent brain stem damage, lower medical costs, and forestall “later abuse, violence, drug abuse and crime in the life of the child.”
Newland explained that:
“Underwater births in the Black Sea have been done for some 30 years and have shown that the children born in the water with the dolphins develop 6 months faster over their first six months, have perhaps 150 grams more brain weight and are ambidextrous.”
However, Newsweek casts quite a dim view on dolphin-assisted birthing, a practice which “could come with the risk for both mom and child of drowning and of awful illness or infection.” The ocean is, after all, filled with micro-organisms, bacteria, and other disease-carrying pathogens.
“Prolonged and frequent exposure to marine mammals were significant risk factors associated with injury and illness,” found a University of California Davis assessment of the risk of zoonotic disease transmission to marine mammal workers and the public.
Work-related illnesses faced by people who work with marine mammals include seal finger, conjunctivitis, viral dermatitis, bacterial dermatitis, and non-specific contact dermatitis.
So there you have it: both sides of the debate surrounding giving birth with dolphin midwives in attendance.
On the plus side, underwater birthing is a form of natural childbirth that relaxes the mother and eases the baby into the cold, hard world by floating the infant directly from the watery womb up to the breathable air. Sounds pretty cool, actually.
On the minus side, giving birth in a germ-filled ocean may not be the best idea for the health of mother and child.
Parents who want their child born underwater may want to consider hosting the birthing suite somewhere with a bath or special birthing tub, with qualified medical supervision available.