You’ve seen it happen on TV. Maybe you someone, or know someone who knows someone, who had it happen to them in real life. But do you know anyone who’s had it happen to them TWICE? Christina Schuler, an Ohio mom of three, just gave birth to her second baby in a row in on the way to the hospital. Despite Christina Schuler’s example, the chances of your baby being born in an automobile are pretty darn slim. Especially slim for first-time moms.
If you were in an emergency situation, would you know what to do?
A few days ago, this regular old mom found herself face to face with a baby ready to be born, and no doctor or midwife to be found. Her story is witty and scary and a little sad, but ultimately it’s a good reason to get the basics on how to handle an unexpected, inconveniently located and poorly staffed childbirth situation. Here, via Sierra at Strollerderby, are Birth Guru’s Ina May Gaskin’s Top 10 Tips for Emergency Childbirth (my title, not hers).
1. Don’t panic. The laboring mom is going to do most of the work here. Your job is mainly to help her stay calm.
2. Do call for help. Call her midwife or doctor. If you can’t reach them, or if they think she needs emergency care, call 911.
3. Try to guess when the baby will come. This sort of a black art, even for doctors. There are some guidelines, though. A woman with contractions several minutes apart may be in a lot of pain, but she’s not likely to deliver within the hour. A laboring woman who is having frequent, intense contractions may. If she says she needs to poop, she’s probably feeling the baby coming down her birth canal. Get ready to catch!
4. Clean yourself and the space as much as possible. You may not have access to sterile gloves and disposable sterile pads if you’re, say, driving a car. Do your best: wash your hands, sterilize them if you can.
5. Offer moral support. Encourage the mother to trust her body and her own instincts when it comes to pushing. Midwife Ina May Gaskin likens coaching a mother through the pushing stage to helping someone park a truck: “All right, bring it on a little. Hold it for a few seconds. Ok, a little more.”
6. Once the head has crowned, look for the umbilical cord around the babies neck. About 2 percent of babies are born with the cord looped around their necks. In most cases, Ina May says, you should be able to loosen it enough to slip it over the baby’s head and continue the birth.
7. Finishing the birth. After the head comes out, you can gently support the baby’s head. When the mom is ready to push the rest of the baby out, the shoulders may seem stuck. Again, you can very gently use your hands to help the shoulders emerge. Go slow, let the mom do the work, and above all: gently support the baby. Newborn babies are slippery. Do not drop the baby!
8. Keep baby warm. Once the baby is born, wrap him or her in a blanket right away, against the mother’s body.
9. Clear the baby’s airway. You want to get the baby breathing right, right away. Clear away any mucus around her mouth and nose, and try to stimulate her a bit.
10. By this time, really, if you followed steps one and two, trained medical help should have arrived. They can take over caring for the baby and new mother. You can enjoy a well-earned moment of bliss.
Sierra’s post also contains a link to a YouTube video to help prep you for emergency childbirth. You might want to pass the info on to your partner if you think it might ease any worries—his, or yours. As for Christina Schuler, her husband says if they have any more kids, they’re going to leave for the hospital a lot earlier.
photo: Ed Yourdon/flickr