To be "born with the caul" means a baby or a child is born with a portion of the amniotic sac or membrane remaining on the head. A caul (Latin: Caput galeatum, literally, "head helmet") is a thin, filmy membrane, the amnion, that can cover a newborn's head and face immediately after birth.

There are two types of cauls. The most common caul is adhered to the head and face and looped around the ears of the infant. The lesser occurring caul drapes over the head and partly down the torso of the child. In Germany, this would be called a "helmet" [Galea] for boys, and in Italy, for girls, a "fillet" [vitta] or "shirt" [indusium, camisia].

The caul is harmless and is easily removed by the doctor or midwife. If done correctly, the attending practitioner will place a small incision in the membrane across the nostrils so that the child can breathe. The loops are then carefully un-looped from behind the ears. Then, the remainder of the caul can either be:

  1. Very carefully peeled back from the skin, or
  2. Gently rubbed with a sheet of paper, which is then peeled back from the skin

If removed too quickly, the caul can leave wounds on the infant's flesh, which may leave permanent scars.

The caul membrane in most cases will be preserved and given to the mother. However, the parents may or may not be told that their child was born with the caul. This depends upon the particular practice of the hospital.

Incidentally, those born with the caul are referred to as "caulbearers", and are normally noted as possessing the gifts of clairvoyance and other types of "supernatural" abilities.

The "En-Caul" Birth

The "en-caul" birth, not to be confused with the "caul" birth, occurs when the infant is born inside of the entire amniotic sac. The sac balloons out at birth, with the child remaining inside of the unbroken, or partially broken membrane.
Being born with a caul is rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in 80,000 births. This statistic includes "en-caul" births, which occur more frequently than authentic caul births; therefore authentic caul births are rarer than the statistic indicates. Most "en-caul" births occur in premature births.

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Dr. Amos Talks About En Caul On CNN