If you find yourself frantically googling “how to deliver a baby,” there’s a good chance you’re in a dire situation.
First, remain calm. Most women make it to the hospital or birthing center on time.
Although delivering a baby without the support of a doctor or midwife is rare, it happens. If you’re concerned that delivery is imminent and medical help isn’t available, rest assured that this step-by-step guide was created and reviewed by doctors.
Although the following information is medically sound, it’s not intended to replace the skill of a doctor or midwife.
Here, Tiffany Woodus, MD, FACOG, of Woodus Obstetrics & Gynecology shares what you need to know if you find yourself in an emergency delivery situation.
Call 911 or your local emergency services as soon as possible so that an emergency first responder can talk you through the situation and send help. If possible, call your doctor or midwife, too.
Make sure the front door or any other doors are unlocked so that emergency workers can get in upon arrival. If you’re driving, pull over and turn on your hazard lights. Then, turn on the location services feature on your cell phone.
Take a deep breath and try to stay calm. The same goes for the birthing parent. Encourage them to focus on deep breathing through the contractions.
Before you get too far into the process, make sure you gather all of the necessary items. Doing this will be a lot easier if you’re at home, but if you’re in a car, do the best you can with the items available to you.
Gather the following supplies:
- clean towels (newspapers or dry clothing will work if towels aren’t available)
- sterile gloves, if available
- a plastic bag
- a bowl for the birthing parent, in case they get sick
- a glass of water for the birthing parent
If time permits, cover the bed or birthing area with a shower curtain.
Remove your watch and any jewelry. Wash your hands and arms, at least up to your elbows, with soap and water for at least 30 seconds.
If soap and water are unavailable, use a bottle of water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Rub the hand sanitizer on your hands and arms for at least 30 seconds. If gloves are available, put them on.
Have the laboring parent remove all clothing from their lower body. This will allow you easier access and keep material out of the way.
Then, ask them to either lie down or sit propped up. “If the laboring parent is standing or squatting, the baby is at risk of falling, which could lead to serious injury,” says Woodus.
Breathing through the contractions is the goal. Encourage the laboring parent to attempt to breathe through their contractions.
“When they can no longer resist the urge to push, try to encourage them to push for a count of five during the contraction, then pause and take deep breaths [in between contractions],” says Woodus.
As the baby emerges from the pelvis, Woodus says to do your best to gently guide the baby out.
“Do not pull on the baby’s head or body, and if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the neck or baby, gently unloop it,” she adds. To do this, you can gently lift it over the head or push it behind the baby’s shoulders.
After you deliver the baby, note the time of birth. Try to write it on a piece of paper or jot it down in your phone.
Immediately after the baby is delivered, Woodus says it’s important to place the baby on mom’s chest directly on the skin to keep the baby warm.
After skin-to-skin contact is initiated, gently dry the baby off with a clean towel or dry piece of clothing. Once the baby is dry, cover both mom and baby with any available clean, dry cloth.
If the baby doesn’t immediately start crying, Woodus recommends using the towel or dry piece of clothing to gently but firmly rub the baby’s back.
“You can also gently stroke downward on either nostril of the baby’s nose to help expel any mucus or fluid,” she says. Try to position the baby with their head slightly lower than their body to help facilitate further fluid drainage.
Don’t cut the cord, as it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to cut or tie the umbilical cord in a sterile fashion. Thus, Woodus says medical professionals encourage you to wait and let your emergency responders handle it.
“Try to keep the baby positioned below the level of the placenta to help facilitate blood flow from the placenta in the direction of the baby,” she says.
If the placenta delivers on its own, Woodus says to place it in the plastic bag, ideally elevated above the baby or at least beside the baby, and wait for further assistance from your emergency responder.
If you find yourself in an emergency, try to stay calm. Call 911 immediately and only follow sound medical advice.
Remember, unplanned or unattended births can be risky. You must seek medical attention as soon as possible for both mom and baby.
Follow the steps above while waiting for help to arrive. Above all else, stay positive and encouraging, and help the laboring parent feel confident and safe. Together, you’ll make it through this challenge until the medical professionals can take over.