Dolphin Assisted Birth: Therapeutic or Wishful Thinking?

pod approachLast month, expectant parents Adam and Heather Barrington, traveled from  South Carolina to Pohoa, Hawaii in the hopes of fulfilling their dream of a  dolphin-assisted birth. Hosted by The Sirius Institute, the couple expect to  form a connection with a dolphin pod during prenatal and postnatal swims. The  couple plans for a water delivery among the dolphins, though they have also made  contingency arrangements. In the event a dolphin-assisted birth cannot happen,  Heather, accompanied by a midwife, will be removed to a nearby family/community  farm. It is unclear what would constitute a reason to change the original plan.

“We are now receiving up to 3-4 requests per week through the Internet from  people searching for a place to birth with dolphins,” claims The Sirius Institute, which describes  itself as “a research consortium with the purpose of ‘dolphinizing’ the  planet.”

According to founding partner, Paradise Newland, and research director,  Michael T. Hyson, Ph.D., “birthing with the dolphins has been an ancient native  practice in Hawaii and in other cultures.” Because of a perceived demand, the  Sirius Institute has developed the Dolphin Attended, Water, Natural (DAWN) and  Gentle Birth Centers in Hawaii. Boasting a mild climate, year-round availability  of free dolphins, and supportive cultural milieu, Hawaii is the natural location  for DAWN, the partners claim.

It is open to debate whether dolphin-assisted birth is an ancient practice or  not, but dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT), as unlikely as that  might seem to some, has been around for over 25 years now.

Dr Dolphin

Generally, DAT involves a patient swimming and playing with dolphins in captivity over several sessions while working on tasks that might include hand-eye coordination or response targets. Due to the dolphins being charismatic, exotic animals, it is an attractive form of therapy for individuals who have mental and physical disabilities, in particular autistic children.

Most scientists immediately invalidate DAT as a therapy, not only because of a lack of empirical support but also because of the fact that most people do not encounter dolphins in their daily lives. To attribute therapeutic change solely to DAT, variables such as swimming in the water, being somewhere warmer, traveling and living some place new while receiving therapy need to be controlled for so that these factors do not confound the results of the research.

Similarly, to make any claim that a dolphin-assisted birth is beneficial to mother and child, a researcher would need to unravel the many factors involved in order to tease out the potential effects of the presence of dolphins. From a scientist’s point of view, the potential impact of each element of water birth would need to be looked into as would the potential comfort an animal might bring.


Read full story: Medical Daily

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