Dolphin-Assisted Births Are a Thing

But are dolphins really midwife material?

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Dolphins

While Heather Barrington’s baby isn’t due until July, she has already decamped to Hawaii in accordance with her birth plan. Barrington and her husband Adam Barrington are not in Hawaii for the views or hospitals, but because they are planning on delivering their child in a so-called dolphin-assisted birth in the ocean off the shore of Pahoa, Hawaii.

The Charlotte Observer reports the couple are staying in Hawaii with Star Newland, the founder of The Sirius Institute – an institute that, according to their website, is “dedicated to the creation of human/dolphin co-creative habitats where dolphins and people can learn from each other through music, underwater birth, dolphin sound healing and restoration.” To prepare for the event, the Barringtons are spending time in the water in the hopes of forming a connection with a dolphin pod, which they in turn hope will bond with them and ultimately their newborn. “It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another,” Heather explained to the Charlotte Observer. The website for the Sirius Institute lists other benefits of a dolphin-assisted birth, too: “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.”

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There are plenty of heartwarming tales of dolphin bravery and sacrifice reported in the media. For example, this tale of dolphins forming a raft in an attempt to save a pod member who was in distress. With stories like that, the very open-minded may understand why someone might wish to take part in a dolphin-assisted birth. However, some experts strongly believe that a dolphin-assisted birth may be the worst idea ever. Christie Wilcox at Discover Magazine explains:

“Not only do dolphins kill other animals, they kill baby dolphins using the same brutal tactics. No matter how cute they might appear, dolphins are not cuddly companions; they are real, large, ocean predators with a track record for violence — even when it comes to humans.”

For further evidence that dolphins are not exactly midwife material, a simple search on YouTube turns up myriad videos of dolphins roughhousing or worse, assaulting humans attempting to interact with them. Dolphins have been known to be aggressive to other animals for no apparent reason, and bull dolphins have been known to force intercourse on female dolphins. They are after all wild animals who may prefer to be left alone than to be involved in a couples’ birth plan. Given recent calls to avoid swim-with-the-dolphin-type interactions, dolphin-assisted birth seems to go against the grain of recent animal welfare trends.

Interestingly, an interview conducted by Penn and Teller revealed that none of the mothers who traveled to The Sirius Institute for the dolphin-assisted birth  actually followed through with the ocean birth. For the Barringtons though, the process of bonding with the dolphins may suffice. “Having that connection with the pod of dolphins anytime – even if the birth doesn’t happen in the water – still brings peace, comfort and strength to the mother and baby during labor,” Heather told the Observer.

MORE: Watch: Dolphins Chased by Killer Whale
MORE: Scientists Puzzle Over Mysterious and Violent Dolphin Deaths Along the Gulf Coast

 

17 comments
cagossel
cagossel

Is this TIME magazine or the Onion website?

Klaudia
Klaudia

That is just taking it one step too far. You're not advised to ride a bicycle when pregnant, because it poses a serious threat of falling (change of centre of gravity in the body that you may not be accustomed enough to). Having a birth with actual marine predators? NO PROBLEM. Pure absurd. Next thing I know it's going to be silverback gorilla assisted birth. After all they have much more developed social structures, are primates and are more intelligent than dolphins. On top of that they are usually peaceful when not threatened. So go on, go give that big hairy guy a hug!

findingthe_joy
findingthe_joy

I'd be more worried about the dirty water & the infections that could cause.  Not sure I'd want to be worrying about the dolphin poo water along with what other bacteria is in there.

Bloodlust
Bloodlust

“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.”


WHAT AN ABSOLUTE PILE OF GARBAGE PEOPLE ACTUALLY FALL FOR THIS?

wlipman
wlipman

Heather Barrington and her imbecile husband are being defrauded by whoever the grifters are who run the so-called Sirius Institute. Obviously, they are monied twits who can afford to go to Hawaii to be fleeced. What disturbs me is putting the imprimatur of Time Magazine--which used to mean something--onto this idiocy.

The Barringtons are obviously unable to extract their heads from their nether regions; it is so much more sad to see that Time Magazine is experiencing the same fate by giving voice to stupidity such as this.

ElyseBrown
ElyseBrown

I think the idea of a dolphin assisted birth is wonderful - as long as the science can be established and safety measures for the procedure are put in place. The Sirius Institute doesn’t seem to have either of these, but that doesn’t make dolphin assisted birth an impossibility, just an under researched possibility.

While Melissa is correct, dolphins are wild animals who rough house, get into fights and sometimes murder their youth, so are humans, and we are trusted with our own children for their whole lives. An average of 344 children a year under the age of five are murdered by their OWN parents every year, and in 2008 there were approximately 1,494 child murders in the United States alone. My only point, is that while wild dolphins kill, so do humans, and this is something that could probably be avoided by using dolphins trained for human interaction. Who knows.

On a more personal note, I would rather have a water birth assisted by a lovely creature of the earth than have myself hopped up on any of the drugs that come standard in an epidural. Need a list? Local anesthetics like bupivacaine or lidocaine, opioids and narcotics like fentanyl, and usually a little bit of morphine. No thanks.

4ClairePhelan
4ClairePhelan

The Sirius Institute webpage sounds like the passage from my Research Methods final- just a collection of sentences where every rule of the scientific method is broken at least once.

Does it even count as a claim if the only references also link to their website?

yeson19
yeson19

I lived in Pahoa and Kalapana for many years. Where does Heather think she's going to give birth? At Kehena Beach? Big waves and far from emergency services. At Poh

btechno
btechno

Dolphins: "Go home ugly bald monkey, you're dru...OH GOD"

SDN
SDN

What the hell is wrong with some people????

Klaudia
Klaudia

@ElyseBrown There is absolutely no way to establish safety measures for a dolphin assisted birth without potentially or actually harming the animal itself. The only safe way to do it is to have dolphins in a separate space while they can still see what is hapenning. So much for assistance.

As humans we can recognise the threat of an aggresive or harmful behaviour coming from one of our own. We also have the ability to stop it. Do tell how would you imagine to stop a dolphin who wants to rough house with a woman in second stage labour? I can imagine how to stop a human in such a situation, I can even imagine how to prevent it from developing. Can't tell much about dolphins as I am not the expert and I suppose neither are you. Yet you are making assumptions based on ridiculous comparison of mortality rates of human and dolphin progeny. Without actually comparing the actual statistics. As much as I respect and admire dolphins for their intelligence, highly developed social skills, etc. I can't somehow miss the truth of them not being more intelligent than we are. If, then (following your logic) we are supposed to train an animal who is less intelligent to be "civilised" around people in very vulnerable state how does that make sense to you if we can't even stop our own species from murdering their own offspring? And I assume here that people who have killed their own children have been raised in a social structure that considers murder to be simply morally wrong and they are not mentally disabled. 

Also like it was mentioned earlier. There is a wide array of birthing choices, not just standard hospital delivery and dolphin assisted birth. Where I live (Belgium) it's very common to have home birth assisted by midwifes only. Without ANY drugs involved, wihout ANY procedures (and that's just one way to do it). Personally I opted for procedure free, drug free birth (using the Bradley method) at the hospital with my firstborn and we all loved it so much that it gave me the confidence to birth unassisted at home next time. Maybe where you live that isn't an option, then idd maybe you should opt for dolphin assisted birth since maternal and neonatal mortality rates are absolutely horryfing in the USA. In that case dolphin assisted birth may be the safer option.


SoniaHickman
SoniaHickman

@ElyseBrown They are not going to assist the birth. That has never been documented. If anything they will look at the humans crazily and then swim along. I equate this situation to showing up at a strangers door step whilst in labor and expecting them to assist your birth...Not to mention dolphins are a whole different species and DO NOT HAVE HANDS. These people are just blowing their money but at least they got enjoy Hawaii. 

Bloodlust
Bloodlust

@ElyseBrown OK so the two choices are child birth with dolphins and an epidural ?  OK THANKS DIDN'T KNOW THAT.

yeson19
yeson19

Will she give birth at Pohiki, where she might get run over by boats and surfers? At the hot ponds in Kapoho, with high levels of E. coli? Might want to give this some thought - East Hawaii has big waves and currents and sharks. It's not Kona.

Pahoa - the land that time forgot.

MelissaKellyKeita
MelissaKellyKeita

@SDN  wait! why dont you bring the dolphin to the hospital? it's the same.  jeez folks