Doctors at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, California, are describing the birth of baby Silas Philips, born with his amniotic sac perfectly intact, as a “miracle” because it is an extremely rare medical occurrence.
Silas was born premature, but healthy, at just 26 weeks. He was delivered by Cesarean section about 10 weeks ago. Doctors who performed the C-section said they were astonished to see the baby born still neatly packaged in his amniotic sac.
The amniotic sac is a delicate, translucent membranous structure, formed into a bag containing a pale liquid consisting mainly of water, inside which the unborn baby develops in the womb. The sac and its liquid content protect the baby from injury and help the baby to maintain a constant body temperature.
Typically, the delicate amniotic sac ruptures spontaneously during labor. The rupturing or breaking of the sac in the early stages of labor is referred to as the mother’s “water breaking.”
Similarly, during delivery through C-section, doctors are usually unable to avoid rupturing the delicate sac. But in very rare cases, the baby is delivered with the amniotic sac intact.
Baby Silas’ birth was one of such rare cases.
Overall, the incidence of a baby being born with the amniotic sac intact is estimated at about one in 80,000 births. Because the incident is extremely rare, most doctors have never witnessed it. Thus, when it happens, it is considered the special moment of a “medical miracle.”
That is why Dr. William Binder, the neonatologist who performed C-section on Silas’ mother, Chelsea Philips, was astonished to see that the baby’s amniotic sac was still intact after he had been delivered by C-section.
After Silas was born with a perfectly intact amniotic sac, his hands and feet were clearly visible from within the sac.
In an interview with KCBS-TV, Dr. Binder described the moment of Silas’ birth as a “moment of awe.”
“Even though it sounds clichéd, we caught our breath. It really felt like a moment of awe … and one that will stick in my moment for some time. He was seconds old and still in the water bag, with the placenta and umbilical cord tucked inside.”
Binder and his medical team were so deeply impressed by the incident that they took the time to snap photos with their cellphones before breaking the amniotic sac.
According to the hospital management, in a statement issued on Tuesday, “He [Dr. Binder] was in awe when the baby just popped out completely enclosed. They had just a short amount of time to get the baby out of the sac and Dr. Binder said he had to puncture the sac with his fingers.”
Silas’ mother, Chelsea, told KCBS-TV that she was amazed when her mother later showed her the cellphone photos.
“It was definitely like a clear film where you could definitely make out his head and his hair. He was kind of in a fetal position and you could see like his arms and his legs curled up. It was actually really cool to see. And when I heard that was actually really rare I was like ‘oh my gosh you’re a special little baby.'”
The photos show the moment Silas was born still curled up in a fetal position, with his placenta, umbilical cord, arms, and legs clearly visible. His palm can be seen pressing against the sac.
Being born with the amniotic sac intact presents the paradox of a baby born, yet unborn; because for as long as the amniotic sac is not broken, the baby continues to live like a fetus, deriving oxygen and nutrition through the placenta.
Babies born with their amniotic sac intact are said to be born “en caul.” However, in most cases, the baby is born with only a part of the amniotic membrane covering the face or head, rather than the entire sac intact as in Silas’ case.
Doctors say that most cases of births “en caul” occur in premature births.
In many traditional cultures across the world, being born “en caul” is considered a special omen. In Medieval Europe, it was considered a sign of good luck and supernatural protection. The “caul” or “veil” covering the child was taken to be a symbol of divine protection.
Jessica Alba’s baby, Haven, was also born “en caul.”
Alba described her experience, saying that it inspired her to name her daughter Haven.
Doctors at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital, who took care of Silas at the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, say he is doing well and that he will go home in a few weeks.
[Images: CBS LA; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center]