Preparing for the Improbable: Emergency Childbirth


I read a story in the news about a woman who delievered a baby in the hospital parking lot, aided by her husband who had experience delivering baby farm animals. The husband could not get into the building because he couldn’t locate the buzzer near the enterance, and the baby just wouldn’t wait any longer. Luckily he did have those births under his belt, and he was able to keep his cool and clear out mucus from the newborn’s throat which was blocking its breathing.  If not for that, I’m sure no one likes to think what could have happened!

Obviously, situations like this are very rare, but such thoughts might have crossed your mind: What do I do if I can’t make it to the hospital in time? What if I have a home birth and the midwife is late? What if I’m stuck in traffic or snowed in at home? If you’ve been pondering these possible situations, there’s nothing to stop you from being prepared for an emergency, and preparing your partner as well.

“When birth is imminent and medical help is unavailable, it is important to understand the normal course of labor and childbirth. The mother and anyone who is helping can make the birth easier and safer by knowing exactly what is happening and how best to help.”  The first step is to learn about the three stages of labor and how to help a laboring woman through each one by reading this Emergency Childbirth article at TheFarm.

Unsure whether there is time to transport the mother to the hospital? has the answers. You can also find additional information there about preparation for and delivery of the baby, with some helpful pictures for those visual learners.

In addition to discussing symptoms of an iminent birth and guidleines for delivery, DiscoveryHealth provides a list of emergency supplies to keep on hand. Things that should be included in your stash are: a flashlight, pillow, clean sheets and towels, suction bulb, sterile rubber gloves, clean scissors, and two clean cord ties.

It might be helpful to print out this 13-page reference guide (actually intended for medical students) and kept on hand.  There are many other sources of information that can be found online or in print, if having it hand will make you feel more relaxed. For a mere $299, the super-paranoid person can even order an emergency childbirth video.

A few words of caution:

Try not to interfere with the birth. Your job is simply to support the woman and “catch” the emerging baby.
Keep your hands outside of the birth canal.
Don’t pull on the baby’s head or body or the umbilical cord.
Never cut the umbilical cord unless specifically advised and coached by a health care professional.
Don’t use harsh chemical products around mother or baby. Sterilized water and a mild soap work best.

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