How To Assist Childbirth In Emergency Situations

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How To Assist Childbirth In Emergency Situations

A few days ago, I got this incredible e-mail that I’ve kept reading over and over again. It was from a father who delivered his own baby during Hurricane Sandy. His wife started having strong contractions all of the sudden and, before he knew it, she was laying on the couch, delivering the baby.

Even if they could have driven to the hospital, they wouldn’t have had the time. Still, the wind and the storm were so strong, they would have been forced to have the baby at home, anyway.

This heroic dad told me he had no idea what to do, but he remembered what he’d seen in movies and what he read in his wife’s pregnancy books and helped her all throughout the delivery. He thinks it’s the most magical thing that’s ever happened to him and created a special connection between him and his son.

I was very impressed with his story, so I decided to write this article, to help others who might be, at some point, in the same situation. You may never know when a disaster strikes and you may never know when a baby decided to come out in the world… so you’ve got to be ready for this, whether you’re the mother, the father, a relative, friend or maybe just a stranger who happens to be near a soon-to-be mom.

So here are the most important steps you need to take when delivering a baby:

#1: Keep calm

If you feel like fainting, now it’s not the best time to give into your emotions. The mom is already stressed out for everyone else that may be witnessing the scene, so it’s best to keep calm and help her throughout the process. Tell her to breathe deeply when she’s experiencing contractions and encourage her to talk about how she feels. This way, you’ll know if everything’s normal or there are complications.

If there are kids in the room, tell them this is all natural and that mom is going to be fine. Explain that it’s the same process they came to life, too. But keep the focus on the mother in the meanwhile, don’t get distracted by anything else.

#2: Call for help

Even if you know you’re going to have to deliver the baby, call 911 as soon as you get the chance to. While help is on the way, the operators can guide you and tell you what to do in case of complications. You can talk to them at all times and I suggest you get a pair of headphones or a bluetooth in advance, just in case, because you’ll need to use your hands a lot.

After calling 911, you’ll need to go unlock the door, so they can come right in when they arrive.

#3: Wash your hands and get clean towels

It’s very, very important to do these things before the baby comes out. You don’t need to boil water like you see in the movies. But you’ll need to wash your hands and arms before helping the baby come out and you’ll need towels to keep the baby and the mother warm until paramedics arrive.

If you’re in a car or elevator and you have no access to towels or water, a clean t-shirt will do and so will disinfectant wipes.

#4: Assess the stage of labor

According to, the progression of labor is divided into three stages:

Stage One: This stage is divided into two parts and brings you from the first contraction all the way to being fully dilated (10 centimeters). The time between seven and 10 centimeters is often referred to as transition. The transition phase of active labor is when contractions become quite strong and the mother may begin to feel more pressure on the bottom.

Stage Two: This is when pushing begins, and it ends with the delivery of the baby (generally after one to two hours).

Stage Three: This stage begins right after the baby is born and ends with the delivery of the placenta.

#5: Guide the mom through the birth process

Don’t worry, you don’t need to do much. Just encourage the mother and wait for the baby’s head to come out. Don’t tell the mom when to push, she’ll feel it herself.

When the baby’s head comes out, you’ll need to gently place your hand under it and guide it downward. Do NOT pull or push, the baby will slide itself to one side after the head comes out (that’s absolutely normal to happen), you’ll just need to be there and catch him.

Warning: Babies are very, very slippery. Be careful and don’t drop the baby. It may sound absurd, but it’s happened before, so just pay extra attention, but don’t squeeze the baby. Just hold it gently, but firmly.

#6: Clean the baby’s airways

Take a clean towel or shirt and wipe down the baby’s nose and mouth. The baby will come out covered in blood and mucus. Don’t get scared. As long as the mom isn’t bleeding heavily, it’s all very natural. Just wipe the baby’s airways and make sure it breathes.

#7: Possible complications

If the umbilical cord is snaked around the baby’s neck, here’s what you’ve got to do. Keep the baby’s head as close to the mother’s body as possible. Then use your thumb as a hook to unravel the cord without pulling it too hard.

If the baby is not breathing, stroke his chest gently. If he still doesn’t respond, softly blow air into his mouth and keep on stroking his chest. You need to keep doing this until paramedics arrive.

#8: Don’t cut the cord unless you really, really have to

If help is on the way, you don’t need to cut the cord yourself. It’s best to let the pros do it because their utensils are sterilized. Here’s what you can do until they arrive:

If the baby is fine and breathing, tie a shoelace tightly around the cord. If it’s not breathing, let the cord untied for 10-15 minutes, because it delivers oxygen into the baby’s body.

If paramedics can’t get to you, you’ll have to cut the cord yourself. It’s a big deal, but you’ll have to sterilize a knife or a pair of scissors first. Read all about sterilizing utensils at home here.

#9: Keep the mom and the baby warm

Wrap the baby in a towel or shirt and place it as close to his mom’s body as possible (preferably skin to skin). Cover them both with dry blankets or whatever clean, warm clothing you’ve got. Now that the baby is fine, make sure the mom is, too. Ask her if she needs anything or if she’ feels any severe pain. Check to see if she’s bleeding (it’s normal for her to bleed a little, but not heavily).

#10: Wait for the placenta to come out

10 to 15 minutes after the baby is born, the placenta is delivered, as well. You can wrap it in a towel or a newspaper and leave it close to the mom if the cord hasn’t been cut yet.

#11: Get medical attention ASAP

If the ambulance hasn’t arrived yet, you should try to get the mom and the baby to the hospital as soon as it’s safe to go outside. But don’t leave the house if the streets aren’t safe! If you delivered a baby on your own, you’ll certainly be able to tend to their needs after the birth is over.

All there’s left to say now is… congrats, you’ve just brought life into the world!

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2 thoughts on “How To Assist Childbirth In Emergency Situations

  1. Good basic article but the article on sterilizing utensils is not adequate. I used to run the central supply in an Army Hospital and after that had some 36 more years as a health care provider who worked in surgery for most of those 36 years.
    To sterilize an instrument such as scissors used to cut a baby’s cord the scissors need to be placed in boiling water-a roiling boil is best-with the scissors blades opened for 20 minutes, not 5 minutes. Another method of sterilizing is to place the instrument, such as scissors, blades opened, in a container and completely cover with 91% Alcohol, available at most drug stores, for 20 minutes then remove and let air dry for a minute before using.
    Some pathogenic bacteria may survive 5 minutes of boiling water, particularly at altitudes above 2000 feet, so 20 minutes is needed. Either method listed above kills all but spore forming bacteria. Which require a much longer and more complicated home process to kill.

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