Baptism before Birth


Can a baby be baptized before birth? Out of fear of what St. Augustine says about un-baptized infants going to Limbo and in the event of a miscarriage…


Only if the water can be poured over them-- for example fetal surgery where the womb is opened. Otherwise, no.


We must trust the mercy of God for those children who die prior to baptism. To me it is obvious from the OT that the desire and faith of the parents in circumcision was sufficient to bring the child into the covenant with God. If the Christian parent truly desires their child to be baptized but the child dies prior to baptism, the desire of the parent, just as in the OT should be sufficient. Keep in mind as stated in paragraph 1257 that God is not bound by the Sacraments of the Church.
Here is what the CCC teaches:

1250 Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.50 The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.51

1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
Specifically to your question:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.


John the Baptist himself was “filled with the Holy Spirit before birth” (Lk.1:15). This is known as baptism of the Holy Ghost. So, pray for God to baptise your child by the Holy Ghost since it is likely to help.

III, 68. 11:Whether a child can be baptized while yet in its mother’s womb?

On the contrary, Augustine says (Ep. ad Dardan.): “No one can be born a second time unless he be born first.” But Baptism is a spiritual regeneration. Therefore no one should be baptized before he is born from the womb.

I answer that, It is essential to Baptism that some part of the body of the person baptized be in some way washed with water, since Baptism is a kind of washing, as stated above (Question [66], Article [1]). But an infant’s body, before being born from the womb, can nowise be washed with water; unless perchance it be said that the baptismal water, with which the mother’s body is washed, reaches the child while yet in its mother’s womb. But this is impossible: both because the child’s soul, to the sanctification of which Baptism is ordained, is distinct from the soul of the mother; and because the body of the animated infant is already formed, and consequently distinct from the body of the mother. Therefore the Baptism which the mother receives does not overflow on to the child which is in her womb. Hence Augustine says (Cont. Julian. vi): “If what is conceived within a mother belonged to her body, so as to be considered a part thereof, we should not baptize an infant whose mother, through danger of death, was baptized while she bore it in her womb. Since, then, it,” i.e. the infant, “is baptized, it certainly did not belong to the mother’s body while it was in the womb.” It follows, therefore, that a child can nowise be baptized while in its mother’s womb.

Reply to Objection 1: Children while in the mother’s womb have not yet come forth into the world to live among other men. Consequently they cannot be subject to the action of man, so as to receive the sacrament, at the hands of man, unto salvation. They can, however, be subject to the action of God, in Whose sight they live, so as, by a kind of privilege, to receive the grace of sanctification; as was the case with those who were sanctified in the womb.

Reply to Objection 2: An internal member of the mother is something of hers by continuity and material union of the part with the whole: whereas a child while in its mother’s womb is something of hers through being joined with, and yet distinct from her. Wherefore there is no comparison.

Reply to Objection 3: We should “not do evil that there may come good” (Rm. 3:8). Therefore it is wrong to kill a mother that her child may be baptized. If, however, the mother die while the child lives yet in her womb, she should be opened that the child may be baptized.

Reply to Objection 4: Unless death be imminent, we should wait until the child has entirely come forth from the womb before baptizing it. If, however, the head, wherein the senses are rooted, appear first, it should be baptized, in cases of danger: nor should it be baptized again, if perfect birth should ensue. And seemingly the same should be done in cases of danger no matter what part of the body appear first. But as none of the exterior parts of the body belong to its integrity in the same degree as the head, some hold that since the matter is doubtful, whenever any other part of the body has been baptized, the child, when perfect birth has taken place, should be baptized with the form: “If thou art not baptized, I baptize thee,” etc.

Could someone explain the highlighted part? thanks


John the Baptist leapt in the womb when the pregnat virgin greeted his mother. That was a miracle. Ordinarily unborn babies are not capable of making such a response, though they can hear sounds.

However John was a special case. You can’t baptise yourself.


But, can a parent pray for their baby in the womb to be baptised of the Holy Spirit?

And, does that passage I highlighted from a church father seem to indicate that such is possible?

If we can pray that the Holy Spirit indwell or fill our baby in the womb with himself, why should we not do so?


Here is a case where someone was filled with the Holy Spirit before recieving water baptism. So, it is possible for a human to be filled with the Holy Spirit before water baptism. So, why not ask God for the best for your baby in the womb, that is being filled with the Holy Spirit. If a baby out of the womb can be baptised in water based on the parents faith, then why can’t that same baby inside the womb be “baptised” or filled with the Holy Spirit inside the womb? The Holy Spirit is not limited to the baby recieving water baptism first. Would this all not fall under baptism of desire? The desire being that of the parents faith? Surely if a parent could have a child baptised in the womb they would right? What would happen if water were injected into the sac that surrounds the baby in the mother? would that qualify as a temporary water baptism until a full baptism can be performed outside of the womb? But, if one asks God the Father for the Holy Spirit to fill their child in the womb, why would we expect God to say no? If we ask God for bread, he would not give us a rock would he?

Acts 10:44-48 (New International Version)

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues[a] and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47**“Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”** 48So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.


Hi Malcolm, if you are married with children you should ask your wife if a baby’s kick can fell like he is jumping. If you are single, then ask your own mother about those kicks.


I feel like this particular point has been discussed on a different thread, but it is important to keep the issues of the salvation of unbaptized infants separate from baptism of desire. Baptism of desire is dependent upon the will of the individual receiving it - infants are incapable of making such an act of the will, so they cannot receive baptism of desire, no matter how many other adults do wish the infants would be baptized.

However, the fact that we can definitively exclude the possibility of infants receiving baptism of desire, this should not make us lose hope in the infinite mercy of God Who is capable of saving whomever He chooses. We cannot say that unbaptized infants will definitely be saved, because this would contradict what has been revealed to us about the necessity of baptism, but we are allowed (nowadays, I think we could safely say encouraged) to hope that God will set aside this precept in favor of those who had no opportunity to receive the sacrament.


Hi Andreas Hofer, since babies can not think for themsleves or comprehend the gospel, then is it safe to say they would fall under invincible ignorance? After all, to our knowledge they have no understanding to speak of.


And, to all, why not pray for your child to recieve the baptism of the Holy Spirit while still in the womb? After all, when the child is being baptised is it not based on the faith of the child’s parents?



Invincible ignorance is something that can protect those who otherwise cooperate with whatever graces God has provided them. So of course infants are invincibly ignorant, but they also can’t cooperate with grace through their wills. Infants simply don’t fit into our other categories of morality and salvation. All we can really say (and thus all we should say) is that baptized infants will certainly be saved and the best we can do for the unbaptized is hope.


No, it’s not possible for a child to receive Sacramental Baptism before physical birth.


I think St Augustine says that un-baptized infants go to hell.

Limbo was a theological option presented at a later date, in the Middle Ages. It was not until the 12th century that Pope Innocent III accepted the doctrine of limbo as promulgated by Peter Abelard as a possiblity.

More in the time of St. Thomas Aquinas than Augustine.


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