The overwhelming majority of Australian births take place in their planned location.
Each year in Victoria, Australia, less than 1% of babies are ‘born before arrival’ (BBA).
This either means the newborn arrives before the mother makes it to the hospital or, in planned home birth, the baby arrives before the midwife.
Precipitous or rapid labor
There are plenty of reasons why you might have a rapid (or precipitous) labor in pregnancy.
Unexpectedly short labor duration, living far from the hospital, and bad traffic are just a few possibilities.
If your due date is looming, you might be very aware of what’s happening with your body. Or, like most people, you’re running a busy household and the due date might not be on your radar.
Whatever the reason, if rapid labor happens to you (chances are, it won’t), here’s what you need to do:
Precipitous labor tip #1: first and foremost, try to be calm
Maybe you’re birthing at home and have already set up your birthing space. If not, it isn’t the end of the world. You have everything you need for quick labor within you.
Hopefully, you have support people to help you grab a few things, and get that birth plan out (the plan is probably for others, not you).
A few rapid labor reminders :
- Babies that come quickly can be a bit stunned, but otherwise, they are usually born happy with no concerns
- You are having what is termed a precipitous labor
- Stay calm. If you’ve had calmbirthing or hypnobirthing classes, now is the time to use those breathing techniques. Remember, this is a transition; don’t be afraid to let go
- Giving birth is natural. Women have been doing it for generations; you wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t
- Women need to feel safe and secure when laboring and birthing so the oxytocin will flow
- Concentrate on your breathing and know you are safe in labor.
You will feel the pain of contractions, which can be quite intense in rapid labor. Breathe! There’s no time for an epidural now your little one is on the way.
Precipitous labor tip #2: ring your midwife or healthcare provider
Let your midwife or healthcare provider, ob gyn and doula know you are in a rapid labor situation.
Ask everyone to move cars from the driveway so the ambulance or midwife can come straight in.
In some cases, depending on what care arrangements you have available to you, someone might be sent out to you immediately.
The next few things to do:
- Call 000 and ask them to send paramedics. If you’re having a planned home birth tell them your midwife is on the way and get your home birthing kit out.
- You might not need transport to the hospital after your rapid labor, as your midwife will provide postnatal care.
- Your midwife might be on speakerphone to talk you through it, or
- The emergency services operator will stay on the phone and talk you (or perhaps your partner) through what happens next
If you have no one with you, the voice of your care provider will guide you.
If you have a support person who isn’t overwhelmed, he or she can be guided by the care provider or doctor and assist you, if necessary.
Hopefully, at your birth planning appointment, you have already discussed what to do if you have precipitous labor.
Precipitous labor tip #3: unlock your front door
Unlocking the door sounds like something you would do automatically, but this is no ordinary day and it’s probably not high on your priority list.
Remember, in rapid labor:
- If you are at home, put the door on the latch so the midwives or paramedics can get in when they arrive
- Focus on getting some clean towels and finding a warm room to give birth in
- If you’re not at home, you might just have to make do with whatever is available to you
- The best thing you can do is follow your instincts
- Your body will tell you when to push, and when to slow down
If you have time, arrange to have someone pick up your other children. Or you might already have had a chat with them about attending the arrival of the newborn and what to expect.
Precipitous labor tip #4: get low to the ground
If you don’t have much time up your sleeve, this is the one to remember.
The fetus is connected to the placenta, which is connected to you; you don’t know the length of the umbilical cord.
You don’t want your newborn to hit its head on anything hard like a shower floor or kitchen floor.
Some tips to remember in rapid labor:
- If you’re in the kitchen and your waters break and suddenly your baby’s head appears, get low to the ground
- Kneel or squat, with towels or blankets underneath you; you can lie on your back, but this isn’t likely to be comfortable
- Have your home birthing kit close by
- Get onto your bed if it is handy, or into any position that is comfortable for you and stay low to the ground
- Listen to your body, and just do what feels natural
- The bowel is close to the vaginal wall. You might have a bowel movement as the baby moves down the birth canal. This is ok, it needs to clear out for your newborn to exit.
Precipitous labor tip #5: slow progression of the head
Trying to keep the bottom area intact and giving your little one time is important. This means slowing it down just a little at the end.
Some tips to help with that rapid labor:
- Support the baby’s head with your hand, and breathe the little one out slowly. If you push too rapidly the head will come out quickly and you are more likely to tear the perineum.
- You have reached full dilation, which means your cervix is probably wide open at 10cm
- You feel pressure in the vagina and bottom
- The pressure continues to increase; as the newborn crowns you might feel a burning sensation
- Once the head is out (you’ll know) the body might follow quickly. If you are concerned, gently feel around to make sure the cord isn’t wrapped around the baby’s neck
- If it is, and it feels loose, gently pull the cord over the baby’s head
- If the cord feels tightly wrapped, leave it for now. You can deal with it once the baby is born
- Once the head is out, your baby should be born with the next few contractions
- If the shoulder feels a bit stuck, move to a lunge position and give a big push
You might be in shock to meet your newborn after such quick labor, so give yourself a minute.
Precipitous labor tip #6: skin to skin as soon as the baby is born
Skin to skin helps to regulate your baby’s body temperature and is great for mother-child attachment and oxytocin production.
You might be alarmed if your baby is slightly blue in color, but it’s nothing to worry about.
When doing skin to skin with your newborn:
- While being careful of the cord, place your newborn straight onto your chest or stomach
- If your newborn is taking a little while to respond, rub his back and talk to him. Babies generally respond, but not all babies will cry
- The rubbing motion and cold air will stimulate your baby’s breathing
- Cover yourself and the infant with a warm clean towel or blanket. Maintaining skin-to-skin contact will prevent your baby from getting cold.
If you are having concerns, provided the afterbirth is out you can pass the infant to your partner for skin to skin.
Read BellyBelly’s articles: The Danger Of Interrupting Immediate Skin-To-Skin Contact and Why Every Dad Should Have Skin To Skin Time When Baby Is Born
Precipitous labor tip #7: leave the umbilical cord intact
While the placental and the umbilical cord are 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.
Tips to remember for rapid labor:
- Don’t cut the cord; let all the blood from the cord go back into the infant and the umbilical cord will go white
- Paramedics are now taught about the benefit of leaving the cord intact, which is great news for babies
- You will need to birth the placenta too. Hopefully, help will have arrived by the time the third stage (placental separation) starts
- Bring the baby to your breast and see if he’d like to attach; this will tell your body that it’s time to birth the placenta and you might feel contractions
- When contractions start again (they won’t be anything like the earlier labor contractions), you will feel the urge to push the afterbirth out
- Have a bowl or bucket handy, to put the afterbirth in
- Leave the cord intact and wait for the paramedics or your midwife to arrive.
You can read more in our article, Cord blood – Why Delaying Cord Clamping Benefits Your Baby.
Precipitous labor and births are nothing to fear
An unplanned unattended precipitous labor can be scary.
If it happens to you, think about the discussion you had with your midwife about the baby possibly coming quickly. This information will help you stay calm throughout.
Having information prior to labor helps you understand the risk factors and benefits of a fast labor experience.
It is important to discuss your rapid labor experience with a health care provider or doctor; for some women, this experience can be traumatic.
Most women say that the fast labor and birth experience was intense and not without pain, but the best experience of their lives.
You can do it if you have to – and it will be a great birth story to tell for years to come.
Fast Birth Stories
My beautiful son made his way into the world on the 26th of October and was in a hurry to meet his family it would seem!
It really is hard to know where to start with this story. There were a few ups and downs during my pregnancy with Ava but the end result was my gorgeous daughter who is nearly 10 months old.