The overwhelming majority of Australian births take place in their planned location, but not all. Each year in Victoria, less than one per cent of babies are “born before arrival” (BBA). This either means the baby arrives before Mum makes it to hospital, or it refers to a planned homebirth where the baby arrives before the midwife. It is probably your worst nightmare, especially if this is your first baby, but do not worry, the chances of it happening to you are very low.
There are plenty of reasons why it does happen – unexpectedly short labour time, living far from the hospital and bad traffic, are just a few possibilities. Whatever the reason, if it does happen to you (which, remember, it probably won't), here's what you need to do:
Fast Birth Tip #1 – First and Foremost, Don't Panic
Although not ideal, this isn't the end of the world. Stay calm. Giving birth is natural and women have been doing it for generations – you wouldn't be here if they hadn't. Labouring women need to feel safe and secure, so concentrate on your breathing to bring down your stress levels, and try not to feel scared.
Fast Birth Tip #2 – Ring Your Midwife/Obstetrician
Let your midwife or obstetrician know what is happening – in some cases (depending on what care arrangements you have available to you) they may be able to send someone out to you immediately. Then call 000 and ask them to send paramedics. The emergency services operator will stay on the phone with you and talk you, or, if present, your birth partner, through what happens next.
Fast Birth Tip #3 – Unlock Your Front Door
If you are at home, put the door on the latch so the paramedics can get in when they arrive. Then you can focus on getting some clean towels and finding a warm room to give birth in. If you're not at home, you may just have to make do with whatever is available to you. You can try to delay labour by kneeling on the floor with your bottom in the air (to help get pressure off your cervix), but this won't always work. The best thing you can do is follow your instincts. Your body will tell you when to push and when to slow down. Listen to your body and just do what feels natural.
Fast Birth Tip #4 – Check For A Cord Around Baby’s Neck
Once the head is out (you'll know when this is the case), gently feel around to see if the cord is wrapped around baby's neck. If it is, and it feels loose, gently pull the cord over baby's head. If the cord feels tightly wrapped, however, leave it for now, you can deal with that once baby is out. Once the head is out, your baby should be born with the next contraction, so get ready to meet your new baby. Whatever you do, don’t panic about the cord – check out our article, 9 Surprising Facts About The Cord Around A Baby’s Neck.
Fast Birth Tip #5 – Skin To Skin As Soon As Baby Is Out
Babies are a blue, clay-like colour when they first come out, it's nothing to worry about. Put the baby straight onto your chest or stomach for some skin to skin contact. Use a clean towel to dry the baby. The rubbing motion and cold air will stimulate baby's breathing. Cover yourself and the baby with a clean towel or blanket and ensure you are maintaining skin to skin contact, this will stop your baby getting cold.
Fast Birth Tip #6 – Leave The Umbilical Cord In Tact
Do not pull on or cut the cord. While the placenta and umbilical cord is still attached, your baby will be getting extra oxygen as well as loads of vital cells (including stem cells, iron, cancer fighting cells and more) found in cord blood. You can read more about this in our article, cord blood – why delaying cord clamping benefits your baby. Paramedics are starting to be taught about the benefits of leaving the cord in tact too, which is great news for babies.
Hopefully help will have arrived by the time the third stage (placenta separation) starts, but if not you will need to deliver the placenta too. Bring the baby to your breast and see if he’d like to attach – this will tell your body that it's time to deliver the placenta. Once your contractions start again (don’t worry, they wont be anything like the earlier labour contractions!), it should only take a few pushes to get the placenta out. If you have a bowl or bucket handy, put the placenta in there. Leave the cord intact, and wait for the paramedics to arrive.
Fast Births Are Nothing To Fear
An unplanned unattended birth is far from ideal, but, if it happens to you, hopefully knowing this information will help you to stay calm throughout. The important thing is that both you and your baby are safe and healthy. Try not to panic. Remember, you can do this – and it'll be a great story to tell for many years to come!