Emergency Childbirth: How to Deliver a Baby Yourself Safely

I will preface this article with the fact that I am a big believer in the human body’s ability to birth babies. Equally, I am a big believer in having a care provider who is there and supportive of your birth but who can help with any possible interventions if needed. In one article, I cannot teach you what I or other care providers have learned in the 4-7+ years of schooling we have undergone. With that said, when babies decide to enter the world at a rapid rate where providers miss their big debut, usually everything has aligned in a way where everything turns out fine. If your baby is one of these kiddos, or if you find yourself in labor at home alone, unplanned, call 911 and follow their instructions. Here are a few tips to ensure you and your baby are as safe as possible as you wait for your midwife or the EMS team to arrive.

First Things First: Get Into Position

I would first recommend getting into a position where you are pushing close to the ground, seat, bed, etc. Pushing upright can feel good, but the risks of cords snapping and babies dropping are higher, especially if you have never caught it before. I also recommend getting off the toilet and out of any body of water since those birthing situations can complicate things with no provider present. If you are in the car on the way to the birthing center or hospital, now is a good time for your partner to pull over and call either EMS or your midwife care provider for aid in delivery.

Grab Something to Wrap Your Baby In

Next, find something warm that you can use to wrap your baby in on your chest. If you are in your home, a towel or blanket will do. A jacket, picnic blanket, or even your partner’s shirt can do the trick if you are in the car. Ideally, you want something cleaner, so using the shirt off your or your partner's back can be the best option in a pinch. Once the baby is born, you will want to place them skin to skin on your body and put a blanket, shirt, towel, etc. over them to retain their body heat. 

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Remember to Breathe

If possible, take some deep breaths. This one is specifically for partners and support people who are with you. Likely, if you have your provider on the phone, they will remind you all to take a breath collectively. Even if the head is almost out, there is always time for a centering breathing moment. We are able to switch from a stressed brain to a more calm and relaxed way of functioning with that breath, and it helps steady the parent who is birthing as well.

Check Your Baby's Cord

Once the head is born, you can check for a cord around the baby’s neck if the body does not fly out after it. Nine times out of ten, the cord will not be an issue. If you can reduce a cord while they are inside, then try to move it around the baby’s neck. If not, you get to do the summersault maneuver. To summersault your baby, you are going to hold the baby’s head close to the perineum of the birthing parent. Their body will be born, and then the cord will be easier to move from around the neck before bringing the baby up to your chest. Don’t overthink this. You will likely innately figure it out in the heat of the moment. Always check for a cord around the neck before pulling them to your chest.

Stimulate Your Baby

Once your baby is born and on your chest, you can lightly stimulate them by rubbing their back, head, and feet to get them to give an excellent, robust cry. Crying is a good thing and a great way to know your baby is doing okay until a care provider arrives. If you are on the phone with EMS, they want to hear your baby crying vigorously, so stimulation is a great idea. This is also the time to pull out that blanket or towel and use it to dry off your baby and keep them warm on your chest. If the cord is too tight with them on your chest, you can keep them on your lower abdomen, still skin to skin.

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Birthing the Placenta

While you are waiting, your placenta might start making its way down and out. Some signs of this are uterine contractions or cramping, a gush of blood, and the cord lengthening. There is no need to rush with this; placentas typically come between 15-30 minutes after birth, but sometimes it takes an hour. If you are bleeding a lot before the placenta is born or you are having intense back pain, then getting the placenta out sooner than later is a good idea. Sometimes, it takes giving some good pushes to birth the placenta, and you can even provide some light tension on the umbilical cord to help it move down and out, but you only need to do these things if one of the warning signs above is occurring. 

Find the Fundus

Once the placenta is born, you need someone to feel for the top of your uterus or fundus. Typically, it is right above, at, or right below your umbilicus or belly button. If you use the side of your hand in a karate chop position and press gently but firmly in on the belly, you will find what feels like a firm grapefruit-sized ball called the fundus. Keep feeling around for it; sometimes, it shifts to either side, and it is harder to find in some bodies than others. If you are not feeling the fundus, you must keep massaging the uterus until you do. This can help slow bleeding and get it to firm up into that firm-feeling grapefruit. Once it is found, keep an eye on it. If bleeding picks back up, find it again, and in some cases, holding it firm is what needs to occur until the provider or EMS arrives with proper medications to help prevent a hemorrhage.

Remember to take deep breaths and focus on what you know in the here and now. The baby is crying, my partner or I are conscious, EMS or my care provider are on the way, and we are currently safe. Chances are that if you are catching your baby, someone will be on the phone line guiding you through all of this, so don’t stress having to memorize this article before birth. And, as I mentioned in the beginning, most babies who come fast and furious style into the world are perfectly fine as they come around. You are the professional of your body and this birth. Trust your intuition and inner knowing that if you must birth and catch your own baby, you will be capable and knowing in the situation, especially with your care provider walking you through it the entire way.

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