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Emergency Birth: What to Do if Baby Doesn't Wait

Katlyn Joy | 3, July 2013


It's a dilemma none of us want to think could happen and most likely, it won't. However, this is one of those "just in case" situations you will want to know how to handle should it happen. If you have given birth previously and things moved rapidly or your labor was not typical and hard to predict, you should give more consideration to this possibility.

There are other factors beyond a rapid labor or one that moves along almost silently that may require an emergency, out of hospital birth. Suppose there is an emergency situation such as a serious storm that makes it difficult or impossible to travel. First, you need to know whether you should try to get to the hospital, or stop where you are whether you are in your living room or the back of your minivan.

How to Know It's Time to Stop Where You Are

  • Suddenly you feel an sharp increase in contractions, as in they are coming one after another.
  • Your panting becomes more of a deep, guttural grunt.
  • The pressure becomes unbelievably intense.

What to Do First

Take a slow, deep breath and try to collect your thoughts.
Realize that from the beginning of people, women gave birth wherever they were. No stirrups, scrubs or labor nurses. Very few labors have complications so don't anticipate anything but a normal birth. Relax by accepting these facts.

Call 911.
You now know that help will be on hand soon, so you can relax even more. You can put them on speaker and do what you are instructed to do. If you have enough time, call a neighbor or a nearby relative to high-tail it over to your home to assist you.

If you are in the car, pull over to a safe distance from traffic and wait for help.
Do not try to rush to the hospital at this point.

Cover the area where you are going to give birth with a clean towel.
If you can manage it, cover the couch or bed with a shower curtain then a sheet. This is an excellent use for anyone who is home with you, by the way.

Make sure your door is unlocked for emergency medical help.
You might not feel so much up to waddling over to unchain the door later.

Neither push things along nor try to stop.
Don't fight what's happening with your body and baby.

What to Expect

Birth is a natural, but somewhat gross process. So what? Just don't choose to deliver on your velvet couch or on your white carpet. What were you thinking having such things with a baby on the way, anyhow? You can clean or trash things as needed later, so just do your work and worry about the collateral damage later.

Call it whatever you want, but childbirth isn't for sissies. One thing that will ease things is not panicking or fighting against the flow of the birth. Expect and imagine everything is going well because odds are, it is so relax. Less tension means less pain.

A baby.
You are about to meet your child for the first time, so focus on the joy to soon follow.

As Baby is Born

- Never do anything silly like crossing your legs as if that could stop the train that is a baby being born. Also, don't let your helper if you have one try to pull the baby once part of the baby has emerged.

- Support the baby as he or she begins to slip out. And yes, baby will be greasy, slippery and wet so be prepared with a clean dry towel.

- Wipe baby's face and press gently downward on the outside of the nose to help any mucus to get out. Should baby not be crying, rub baby's back firmly.

- Don't worry about cutting the cord and definitely don't pull on it. Just leave things be until help arrives.

- Once baby is out, wrap her up in a towel and place her on your chest. Your body heat will warm baby.

- Place baby to breast and let baby begin to nurse. This will usually come naturally to baby and this will help you get those important contractions going that will result in the passing of the placenta and the shrinking of the uterus.

Next Steps

If baby isn't breathing, let the 911 operator talk you through infant CPR.
Remember, help is probably almost there at this point so you can be the help needed until those few moments have passed.

Keep baby warm and don't worry about the cord or placenta.
You don't want to pull on it or make it too taut.

Massage your abdomen to help get your uterus shrinking.
If it doesn't, you'll bleed too much. Having baby nurse will help with this too, but if baby isn't quite on track for this yet, massage your nipples to get things going.

Listen for the EMTs to arrive and take over.
Soon you'll be whisked off to a birth suite and both you and baby will be checked over and tended to.


Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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