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How to handle an unexpected home birth

You’re looking forward to delivering in the comforts of the hospital delivery room, only to find that your bun in the oven is making an appearance earlier than expected — at home! Although not intended as a guide for giving birth at home, learn the higher points of how to handle an unexpected home birth, from the supplies you’ll need to how to handle your body’s natural instincts.

Supplies for a home birth

According to Kira Smith, M.Ed, ICCE in Preparing for Emergency Birth, you will need the following supplies when giving birth at home:

  • Clean sheets and towels
  • Tissues
  • A bulb syringe
  • Clean, soft receiving blankets
  • A hat for the baby (to prevent heat loss)
  • Large sanitary napkins
  • A phone number for emergency care

And, just like in the movies, you’ll need warm water for cleaning up fluids and blood along the way.

What you need to do when unexpectedly having a baby at home

First and foremost, stay calm! Put your calming breathing tricks you picked up in Lamaze class into play. Next on the list is to dial 9-1-1. While help is on the way, you can focus on how to keep you and your baby safe when your baby-to-be is making a sudden entrance into the world.

Find a comfortable, safe place to labor laying down or sitting propped up while your partner washes his hands. In cases where time permits, you can use a clean shower curtain to protect the floor from fluids and blood. Next, have your partner gather pots of warm water and several clean towels to wrap and lay your newborn upon and to wipe up fluids.

>> Am I in labor? 6 signs labor is starting

Handling your body’s natural instincts when giving birth

Despite every urge to push, when having a baby unexpectedly, do not push — you may risk pushing too quickly and damaging your delicate tissues. “The uterus will naturally expel the baby much more quickly and efficiently when the mother is allowed to keep her body relaxed and work with nature rather than tightening up the very opening that the baby must pass through during a vaginal birth,” says Teresa Van-Zeller, So, let your body labor naturally and eventually, your baby’s head will push through your vagina. Be sure to check that the baby’s umbilical cord is not wrapped around his neck before the shoulders and rest of the baby follows.

Unwrapping the umbilical cord

Should you spy the umbilical cord around your newborn’s neck, gently hook your finger under the cord and lift it up and over the baby’s head. Or, loosen the cord enough for the baby to pass through, but be careful not to collapse the cord — it is your baby’s oxygen source. Most importantly, do not cut or tie the cord, even after delivering the placenta. Leave it attached to the baby and the placenta for medical professionals to tend to.

Caring for your newborn after a emergency home birth

Run your fingers down the sides of your infant’s nose to encourage amniotic fluid to drain. For newborns who do not cry or take a first breath right away, place the baby face down across your legs and rub his back up and down to stimulate him. Continue until breathing begins.

Then quickly dry your baby with clean towels and place on your skin to nurse; this will not only help regulate your newborn’s temperature, but also stimulate the release of hormones that cause your uterus to contract, reducing bleeding and chance of hemorrhaging. Remember to cover your little one with a blanket and a cap.

>> Review the possible complications of an emergency baby delivery

Remember to discuss how to handle emergency births with your physician during your prenatal visits. Although not intended as medical advice, when faced with an early arrival, you can now have peace of mind knowing how to handle an unexpected home birth and keep you and your baby safe until help arrives.

More on labor and delivery

8 Natural ways to induce labor
Am I in labor? 6 signs labor is starting
Coping with labor-related fears

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