How to Deliver a Baby
Categories: Health & Nutrition
Whether you're an expectant parent or an unsuspecting cabbie, the time may come when you are called upon to help deliver a baby with no professional help in sight. Don't worry — people have to do this all the time. Most of what you need to do is help the mother relax and let her body do the work. That being said, there are steps you can take to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible until help arrives.
Part 1 of 5: Preparing for the Birth
- Call for help if possible. Contact emergency services. That way, even if you have to deliver the baby yourself, help will arrive soon if you experience complications. The dispatcher should also be able to either talk you through the delivery or connect you to someone who can.
- If the mother has a doctor or midwife, call that person too. The medical professional can often stay on the phone and help guide you through the process.
Determine how far labor has progressed. The first stage of labor is called the “latent” stage, where the body is getting ready to deliver by dilating the cervix. It can take a long time, especially if this is the woman's first child. The second, or “active” stage occurs when the cervix has completely dilated.
- Women may not experience as much pain or discomfort during this stage as later stages.
- If the woman is fully dilated and you can see the baby's head crowning, she's in stage two. Wash your hands, skip to the next section and get ready to catch the baby.
- Unless you have been trained to do so, don't try to examine the cervix. Just watch to see if the head begins to appear.
Time contractions. Time the contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next, and note how long they last. The further along labor is, the more regular, stronger, and closer together contractions become. Here's what you need to know about contractions:
- Contractions that are 10 minutes apart or less are a sign that the mother has entered labor. Physicians recommend that you contact the hospital when contractions are 5 minutes apart and last 60 seconds, and this activity has been going for for an hour. If this is the case, you probably have time to make it to the hospital if you live close to one.
- First-time mothers are likely to give birth when contractions are three to five minutes apart and last 40 to 90 seconds, increasing in strength and frequency for at least an hour.
- If the contractions are two minutes or less apart, buckle down and get ready to deliver the baby, especially if the mother's had other children and they were fast labors. Also, if the mother feels like she's going to have a bowel movement, the baby is probably moving through the birth canal, creating pressure on the rectum, and is on its way out.
- If the baby is preterm, you should contact the mother's physician and emergency services at any signs of labor.
Sanitize your arms and hands. Remove any jewelry, such as rings or watches. Wash your hands thoroughly with antimicrobial soap and warm water. Scrub your arms all the way up to your elbows. If you have the time, wash your hands for five minutes; if you don’t have time for that, wash them thoroughly for at least one minute.
- Remember to scrub in between your fingers and under your nails. Use a nail brush or even a toothbrush to clean under your nails.
- Wear sterile gloves if available. Don’t wear things like dishwashing gloves, which are likely loaded with bacteria.
- To finish (or if you don't have access to soap and water), use an alcohol-based hand sanitizing product or rubbing alcohol to kill off any bacteria and viruses that may have been on your skin. This helps prevent giving the mother or the baby an infection.
Prepare a birthing area. Get set up so that you have everything you'll need within easy reach, and so the mother is as comfortable as possible. There will be a mess afterwards, so you may want to have the birthing area somewhere you don't mind getting messy.
- Collect clean towels and clean sheets. If you have clean waterproof tablecloths or a clean vinyl shower curtain, these are excellent at preventing blood and other fluids from staining furniture or carpeting. In a pinch, you can use newspapers, but they are not as sanitary.
- Get a blanket or something warm and soft to wrap the baby in. The infant must be kept warm once it’s delivered.
- Find a few pillows. You might need them to prop up the mother as she's pushing. Cover them with clean sheets or towels.
- Fill a clean bowl with warm water, and get a pair of scissors, a few lengths of string, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, and a bulb syringe. You may find that sanitary napkins or paper towels are helpful to stop the bleeding later.
- Get a bucket in case the mother feels nauseated or the need to vomit. You may also want to get a glass of water for the mother. Labor is hard work.
- Help the mother stay calm. She may feel panicky, rushed, or embarrassed. Do your best to remain calm and reassuring to help her relax.
- Ask the mother to undress from the waist down. Provide her with a clean sheet or towel to cover up, if she'd like.
- Encourage her to breathe. Avoid hyperventilation by speaking in a low, soothing voice and verbally directing her breathing. Encourage her to inhale through her nose and out through her mouth in an even, rhythmic manner. If you're still having trouble, hold her hand and take deep, slow breaths along with her.
- Reassure her. This is probably not the birthing experience she had in mind, and she might be worried about potential complications. Tell her help is on the way, and you'll do the best you can in the meantime. Remind her that people have given birth outside of hospitals for thousands of years, and it's more than possible to come through it safely.
- Validate her. The mother may feel scared, angry, giddy, or any combination of those feelings. Validate whatever she is feeling. Don’t try to correct her or argue with her.
- Help the mother find a comfortable position. She might want to walk around or crouch down during this stage of labor, especially when a contraction hits. As she starts to transition to the second phase, she might want to settle into a position to give birth or cycle through a few different ones. Switching between positions may help the labor progress more smoothly, but let her decide what’s working for her body. Here are four standard positions, and the pros and cons of each:
- Squatting. This puts gravity to the mother's advantage, and can open the birth canal 20%-30% more than other positions. If you suspect the baby is breech (emerging feet-first), suggest this position as it gives the baby room to rotate. You can help the mother in this position by kneeling behind her and supporting her back.
- All-fours: This position is gravity-neutral and can ease back pain, and the mother might instinctively choose it. It can provide pain relief if the mother has hemorrhoids. Position yourself behind her if that's the case.
- Side-lying: This leads to a slower descent through the birth canal, but can lead to a more gentle stretching of the perineum and may reduce tearing. Have the mother lie on her side, with her knees bent, and lift the top leg. She might also need to prop herself up on an elbow.
- Lithotomy position (lying back). This is the most common position used in hospitals, with the woman lying flat on her back and her legs bent at the knee. It allows maximum access for the caregiver, but it puts a lot of pressure on the mother's back and is not considered ideal. It also may make contractions slower and more painful. If she seems to prefer this position, try putting a few pillows under her back to ease the pain.