Dolphin-Assisted Births Are a Thing

But are dolphins really midwife material?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Stuart Westmorland / Getty Images


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.”

(MORE: First Genetic Markers That Predict Postpartum Depression)

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