If you’re in the third trimester, you’ve probably already decided where you want to deliver your baby.
Or perhaps you had a very quick delivery with your last baby.
Have you thought about what to do if you don’t make it to your birth center in time?
Yes, I’m talking about laboring so fast that you accidentally deliver at home, also known as a BBA (born before arrival).
Fast or precipitous labor is uncommon, but they still happen. In fact, 1 in 200 babies are born before they arrive at the hospital.
You’re much more likely to experience this if you’ve already given birth. But even first-time moms experience it too.
Timing the trip to the hospital or a premature baby may take you by surprise.
Some babies hang around for no-one. They are born at home, in the car, in the ambulance or even at the side of the highway in rush hour traffic. You’ve seen the online videos right?
This guide is gonna tell you just what to do in case you don’t quite make it to the hospital n time. You might even want to print it out and keep a copy for your partner in case it happens.
There is a lot of information in this guide, so pin it to your baby or labor board, and you can come back to it later.
NOTE – This guide is for women who are laboring outside of their planned place of birth. It is not for women who intend to free birth at home purposely without a trained professional to help.
Pin For Later
How to Handle An Unassisted Birth
1. Assess what’s Going on
Although this situation seems scary, the best thing to do is try and stay as calm as possible. Knowing how to handle the situation will get the best outcome if the medical staff are not around.
Are your contractions are coming every 3-4 minutes and lasting for around 1 minute? Then you’re in active labor. You may still have time to get to your birth center, especially if it’s your first baby.
When you’re unsure call your birth center, and they will triage you over the phone.
If you have a strong urge to push, stay put and use the following steps.
2. Call 911
If you think your baby is coming now, call 911 immediately. Don’t waste time by calling your hospital or midwifery unit; they’ll only tell you to call 911.
An ambulance will dispatch immediately. If you’re not at home, try to give as much detail of your location to make it easier for them to reach you, such as street signs.
They may ask a few questions such as ‘is this your first baby?’ or ‘how many weeks are you?’
If your baby’s head is appearing, they will be able to talk your partner through delivering your baby.
Unlock the door so that the EMT’s can access your home quickly.
3. Get a Helper
If you’re on your own, get someone who can help you out. At home, it’s best to try a female neighbor
Never get into a car and attempt to drive yourself to a birth center.
4. Heat the Home
Your baby needs a warm environment to be born into. At home turn the heating on if it’s cold or cool weather. If it’s hot weather, shut any windows and turn off the A/C or fans.
If you’re in a car turn the heating on and roll up the windows.
This is an important step, don’t skip it. One of the biggest risks to your baby is that they get too cold after delivery.
5. Gather a ‘Birth Kit’
Use items you have available to you in the home. If you are in the car try to take some of these items with you en-route to the birth center. That way you’ll be prepared if things change quickly.
A plastic sheet – trash bags, shower curtains or tablecloths can be used to protect your bed, carpet or car seats.
Lots of dry clean towels – Preferably warmed if possible, these are for drying your baby.
A warm blanket and hat – Again warmed if possible. These will be used to keep your baby warm after birth.
A large bowl or bag – You’ll need something to hold the placenta after it delivers. It’s very bloody so make sure your container doesn’t have holes.
6. Get comfortable
Use your plastic sheet, lay it down and sit on top. Don’t be tempted to go in the bath a sit can make it harder for the EMT to transfer you and can cause your baby to lose heat quicker.
Choose whatever position you feel most comfortable in. Lying on you left side is good to get the most oxygen to your baby.
7. Don’t push
Now I know you see all those movies where everyone is screaming ‘PUSH,’ but you need to resist.
Your body will give you an unbearable sensation to push. Rather than forcibly pushing down, try panting instead. Similar to how you would blow out candles on a cake.
Controlled breathing will allow your baby to delivery slowly to minimize your risk of tearing.
8. Delivering baby
Make sure your helper has clean hands. They should keep their hands close to your vagina ready to catch baby should they deliver very quickly.
Don’t worry if your baby’s head is delivered without the body. Don’t feel for cord and don’t pull on the head.
The body should be born with the next contraction. You or your helper should gently catch them.
9. When Your baby is out
As soon as your baby is born bring them up on to your tummy or your chest (depending on the cord length). Your baby will be wet and slippery and needs to dried quickly.
Give your baby a good, firm rub; this will help them to take their first breath and cry.
Your baby may be a little stunned, and you may need to do this for up to a minute. Most babies will cry before then.
There is a guide below on what to do if your baby doesn’t start to breathe after this time.
Put a hat on your baby, a blanket over you both and keep them warm with skin to skin.
10. The placenta
Now your baby is born you need to wait for the placenta to arrive. It can take anything from 10minutes to an hour. It’s also common for the placenta to become stuck after a quick labor.
Try putting your baby to your breast, if they managed to suck it will release hormones that help the placenta deliver.
Don’t tie off the cord or attempt to cut it. You’ll allow your baby to get as much vital blood and oxygen as possible. Cutting the corn can also leave your baby open to infection as your equipment won’t be sterile.
You’ll feel a few more contractions, and then the placenta will deliver.
Place it into the tub or plastic bag and keep it close as it will still be attached to your baby. The placenta needs to be inspected by a nurse or midwife to make sure it’s all out.
11. Once help arrives
You and baby will quickly be assessed to make sure there are no complications from birth. You’ll likely be transferred to hospital to assess if you need any vaginal stitches, deliver your placenta or to manage heavy bleeding.
Your baby is likely to be observed closely for signs of hypothermia. Keeping baby as dry and warm as possible will help prevent this.
The experience can be traumatic, and you or your partner may require a debrief session after the event. It’s best to talk about the events with trained staff.
If your baby doesn’t breathe
Remember to give your baby a good dry and rub for a minute to stimulate their breathing. Be firm like you would when you towel dry your hair.
The good news is your placenta is still attached, and your baby will get a flow of oxygen for around 5 minutes or when the cord stops pulsing.
If baby still appears blue, floppy and isn’t breathing:
- Wrap them up and lie them on a firm flat surface. Try to keep them warm.
- Tilt their chin slightly upwards, making sure that it’s not against their chest
- Cover your baby’s mouth and nose with your open mouth. Try to seal your lips on their face. Breathe out and into your baby for 2-3 seconds. Repeat those breaths 5 times. Make sure the chest moves up and down as you do this.
- Quickly check to see if your baby is breathing on their own. If they are then put baby back skin to skin, keep them warm.
- If your baby still isn’t breathing repeat the breaths and check for breathing for up to a minute. Start chest compressions.
- Place your first two fingers in the middle of your baby’s chest between the nipples. Press down quickly 3 times. Then do another breath.
- Keep doing 3 compressions to one breath until you baby breathes themselves, or help arrives.
It’s not illegal to have an unassisted home birth in the USA. In some states, it is illegal for a midwife to attend a homebirth, unplanned or not.
That’s why it’s best to call 911 for assistance in the case of an unassisted birth.
Your state may require an immediate check by a trained professional to obtain your baby’s birth certificate.
Unassisted Birth Videos
Although the thought of an unassisted birth can be scary, your instincts will take over.
Your body is designed to have babies and is capable of doing it without help. The main aim of the game is to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. That means getting a check-up from a trained professional as soon as you can.
Follow this guide, and you’ll give you and your baby the best outcomes, should you accidentally deliver before you get to tour planned place of birth.
You got this mama.