What’s A Dolphin-Assisted Birth? And Could It Be The Best Option For Your Baby?

By Gwen Farrell··  5 min read
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We’ve heard of doulas, eating your placenta, lotus births, and all kinds of…unique birthing rituals and practices. Most recently, Twitter yielded yet another interesting birth practice: dolphin-assisted birth.

Yes, you read that correctly – dolphin-assisted births have allegedly taken place in the past at a quasi-birthing center in Hawaii. The medical community and mainstream online sources aren’t the biggest fans of this concept, and perhaps for valid reasons. But first and foremost, what the heck is a dolphin-assisted birth? And is it possible it could be a viable option for your own birth?

Who Is Igor Charkovsky?

You could say it takes a unique individual to develop this kind of practice, and Igor Charkovsky certainly fits that description. Charkovsky’s exact job title varies depending on who you ask – some describe him as a scientist, researcher, or midwife, while others say he’s a spiritual guru and a “pioneer” in the field of water birth and baby yoga. One journalist found that although Charkovsky has participated in many live births and does have a doctorate, he has no traditional medical training.

There’s water birth, and then there’s dolphin-assisted water birth. As the story goes, Charkovsky and his assistants were preparing for a water birth in the Black Sea in 1979. Suddenly, three dolphins approached the expectant mom, pushing the assistants away and forming a circumference around her as she delivered. The dolphins swam around her repeatedly, creating a vortex in the water and supposedly relaxing her with sonar vibrations. Charkovsky saw the effects of this interaction, and his concept of dolphin-assisted or dolphin-attended birth was born.

The dolphins swam around her repeatedly, supposedly relaxing her with sonar vibrations.

If that sounds a little out there, to say the least, it gets even crazier, as one TikTok user further explains. The TikTok, made by @connecting_consciousness, has over 25,000 views and explains Charkovsky’s theory and the science behind the practice a bit more in-depth. 

Supposedly, the babies who were delivered at a now-defunct birthing center in Hawaii which specialized in this practice would experience the sonar generated by the dolphins attending the water birth, similar to the way modern ultrasound technology works. Using their sonar and echolocation capabilities, the dolphins interacted with the babies in utero and “helped” deliver them in a positive experience for both mother and baby. It has been seen that dolphins can detect babies in the womb, so while these claims may sound ridiculous, there is some basis in fact.

Charkovsky has claimed that babies delivered through dolphin-assisted birth exhibit tons of benefits developmentally, including higher IQs as well as talking and walking well before the average age. Charkovsky’s non-traditional practices have understandably been decried by the medical community, but he has found heightened popularity in a few specific places, both at a New Age establishment in Hawaii called The Sirius Institute and with parents-to-be in Israel

Dolphin-Assisted Birth, a Controversial Practice

As you can probably guess, the medical community and animal researchers aren’t wild about the concept of dolphin-attended birth. The main concerns for mom and baby stem from the presence of potentially dangerous bacteria and other pathogens present in the water, as well as possible bacteria that could be carried by the dolphins. There’s also the risk of the dolphins being aggressive, the concern of fatality, and the baby potentially drowning.

Charkovsky isn’t seen as the most reputable professional either. While the success of his treatments have been touted by many in Russia, Israel, and elsewhere, his methods of baby yoga and water therapy are extremely non-traditional. These include holding a baby and sometimes mom in the water for three hours or more, encouraging mom to breastfeed in the water, and sometimes submerging the baby periodically or placing them in a “trance” with the goal of healing them from trauma and “cleansing their karmas.”

When it comes to dolphin-assisted birth, Charkovsky has argued that, essentially, the dolphin views the mother’s womb as transparent, communicating with the baby directly by using both spiritual and sonar signals. Charkovsky’s adherence to the advantages of the practice goes way beyond dolphin-assisted birth, though. According to him, humans belong in the water and can strengthen their endurance and toughness by being in it as much as possible, even from birth.

Could This Be the Future?

If you were going to pick a marine mammal to assist in a woman’s birth, you realistically couldn’t do much better than a dolphin. Dolphins have been studied for centuries for their incredible capabilities – in ancient Greece, they were considered sacred and killing one could warrant punishment by death. Dolphins understand many emotions similar to the ones we experience as humans, and they have some of the most complex brain functions and social structures of any other group in the animal kingdom.

The ideal setting for a successful birth is what’s most comfortable for mom. 

You might also be surprised to learn that while dolphin-assisted birth is fairly novel, dolphin therapy and similar practices are nothing new. Dolphins have been used for years for occupational therapy and through other channels for disabled individuals, and Los Delfines, a five-star hotel in Lima, Peru, has previously offered one-on-one interactions between pregnant women and dolphins, which has been said to stimulate the baby’s movement and brain activity. Some moms reported increased movement and fetal heart rate following the therapy sessions. 

While dolphin-assisted birth obviously isn’t a widespread practice (and you’d probably have difficulty getting access to it in a landlocked area), one holistic midwife located in Kona, Hawaii does advertise the practice as part of her services. The midwife in question is a certified professional midwife and doula, and has certifications in water birthing as well as other holistic practices.

Closing Thoughts

We sometimes forget that babies have been brought into this world in all kinds of environments and habitats. Most care professionals agree, though, that the ideal setting for a successful birth is what’s most comfortable for mom. As hilarious as it may sound, if a dolphin-attended birth sounds like the ideal setting for you, that just might be a viable option in the future.

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