Emergency Birth at Home

It Probably Won't Happen, But...

It isn't likely that many expectant mothers who have planned to have their babies in a birthing center or hospital expect to have their babies at home - or in the back seat of a car or taxi. But, these things do happen. It only happens in about one percent of births that a woman who has had no labor symptoms or contractions suddenly feels the need to push which indicate the soon arrival of her baby.

If you've already had a baby and your labor was intense and fast, then you should be particularly aware of labor signals and be prepared to beat a path to the hospital at the first sign. Usually, subsequent labors go even faster, so time is truly of the essence. However, if you are overcome with the need to push and you don't think you'll be able to make it to the hospital, there are some basic guidelines to hopefully keep things intact until the emergency crew arrives.

First Things First

First things first. Call 911 and tell them your baby is on the way and won't wait. Ask for an emergency medical team to be dispatched immediately. Make sure your door is unlocked - you may not be in any shape to let them in otherwise. If you're alone, call a friend or neighbor to come over and call the doctor or midwife (or have your friend or partner do it if you can't). The doctor or midwife will stay on the phone with you to coach and guide you as needed.

If you're still able to move around, get as many towels, sheets or blankets as you can. Put one under yourself and have the rest close by in order to dry your baby immediately after the birth. Your clothing will do the trick if you don't manage to have towels or blankets nearby and help doesn't arrive in time. Take off your underwear.

If You Really Have to Push

Should the urge to push be strong, try to hold it off by panting or using breathing techniques or by lying on your side. Either lie down or sit down for delivery. If you deliver standing up your baby is in danger of being dropped and seriously hurt.

Birthing Your Baby - Solo

If it happens that things are moving faster than help is arriving, the most important thing you can do is be calm. Often babies that arrive with short notice deliver easily. Gently guide your baby out as best you can. If the umbilical cord is around baby's neck, either ease it over the head slowly or loosen it to make a loop big enough for his body to slip though. Leave the cord attached until help comes - do not try to cut it or tie it off. The placenta will arrive shortly after the baby, so don't move. Leave the placenta attached to the cord as well and let the medical help deal with it.

Dry your baby immediately then place baby on your tummy, skin-to-skin and cover both baby and yourself with a blanket to keep warm. Running your fingers gently down the sides of baby's nose will ease out any mucus or amniotic fluid from the nostrils. If baby doesn't cry spontaneously at birth, firmly rubbing up and down on the back stimulates the baby.

Put Baby to the Breast

If the cord isn't too taut, try nursing the baby. There are a few things that happen if you can. Oxytocin is released in your body which will allow for contractions that will help the placenta deliver and it helps stop bleeding. You get to bond with your newborn and see that precious face up close - offering comfort and security.

For further information, see the American College of Nurse-Midwives' Guide to Emergency Preparedness for Childbirth.

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