How To Give Birth In A Car – Tips for Childbirth and Delivery

Every pregnant mama who’s delivering in a birthing center or hospital has thought about it…

What if we don’t make it in time?

What if I end up delivering my baby in the car?!?

The thought certainly crossed my mind. And then it almost happened to me!

Yes, as we were driving to the birth center to deliver my second baby, I very nearly had my husband pull over to the side of the road in Chicago so we could birth our little bundle right there in our Volkswagen.

Fortunately, we made it to the birthing center in time for me to burst into a room and deliver my baby a few minutes later.

Chances are very good that you will make it to the birthing center or hospital too!

But if you don’t, take heart. Plenty of moms have successfully given birth to their babies in cars—including several mamas who told us all about it in our childbirth story gallery (the largest collection of childbirth stories on the interwebs)—and things worked out just fine for them and their babies.

In this post, we have words of wisdom from two of those mamas, plus a few intense videos of mamas who gave birth in their cars.

But first, some tips from Maura Winkler, a Registered Nurse on our editorial team.

How to give birth in your car in 12 easy steps

  1. Remain calm. Usually when babies come this fast, all is well and proceeds smoothly.
  2. Pull over. You and your partner will both be nervous, and this is not the time to have a car accident!
  3. Call 911. They may remain on the phone with you until the baby arrives and can provide you with valuable instruction. Of course, follow their instructions over the ones provided here! Their instructions may be more specific to your circumstances.
  4. Grab whatever clothing or blankets you have in the car and place them nearby.
  5. Allow the mother to assume whatever position is comfortable for her to give birth in (she’ll probably just do so naturally—you won’t have to tell her!)
  6. Have your hands ready to catch the baby or ensure that the mother is close (within 6-12 inches) of a soft surface like the seat of the car, which can also help to catch the baby. The baby’s head will come out first, and then there may be a pause (while waiting for another contraction) before the body emerges.  You don’t need to do any fancy maneuvers—just make sure the baby doesn’t fall on the floor!
  7. Do not pull on the head, body, or umbilical cord if you happen to notice it around the baby’s neck. Know that most babies will deliver just fine right through the umbilical cord if it is around their neck; you can unwrap it once baby has been delivered.
  8. Once the baby has emerged, place it skin to skin with the mother for warmth, and cover them both with a blanket, shirt, or jacket. Simultaneously dry the baby.
  9. If the baby does not breathe or cry right away, don’t panic. The baby is still receiving oxygen from the umbilical cord. Remain on the phone with emergency services or call them if you haven’t yet. In the interim, vigorously dry the baby (including wiping the nose and the mouth) to help stimulate breathing. Focus on keeping the baby warm on the mother’s skin.
  10. A gush of blood and fluid will follow the baby. Remember that the amount of blood may appear to be more than it actually is since it is mixed with amniotic fluid.
  11. The placenta takes 5-30 minutes to come out. By the time it is ready, emergency services should be joining you. In the meantime, do not pull on or cut the cord. The baby can remain attached to the umbilical cord until after the placenta has been delivered.
  12. Make your way to the birth center or hospital by ambulance so everyone can get checked out, and congratulate yourselves on a memorable birth story!

How to Give Birth In Your Car - stories by Amber and Christine

Here’s advice from two mamas in our community who actually did deliver their babies in a car.

Christine R’s responses are in maroon. You can read her full birth story in our gallery. 

Amber D’s responses are in teal. You can read her full birth story in our gallery. 

When did you know for sure that you weren’t going to make it to the birth center or hospital?

My husband was talking to my Doula on a cell phone because I couldn’t talk. My Doula heard the moans I was making during my contractions (ah, ah, ah, ah…) and I heard her say, “Ask her if she is going to make it?” My husband asked me, and immediately I knew. I was not going to make it to the Alternative Birth Center in the hospital I planned to deliver at. Shortly after that, I felt my baby’s head start to come out while I still had my seat belt and yoga pants on. I told my husband to pull over because I could feel baby’s head while we were on the expressway, but he did not.

I didn’t realize we weren’t going to make it to the hospital until I told my husband to pull over. My water broke at home, we left, and after 20 minutes I was having the baby. We were only 10 minutes away from the hospital! (No one told me baby number 3 comes fast until after I had her.)

How did the driver of the car react?

My husband was driving and he was more terrified than me. He didn’t pull over on the side of the expressway when I told him I could feel the baby’s head and I told him to pull over. He knew that there was a hospital, not the one we planned to go to, at the next exit. He thought he could get to that hospital in time and get help.

In the car with every contraction I could feel the baby’s head engaging. I didn’t really want to tell my husband. He was already driving up to 100 mph on the freeway. Finally I told him, “Pull over!  I am pushing!” I just remember it being super chaotic, just like how they portray it in the movies. If I could go back and do it again, I would try to relax and calm down. Luckily for my husband, my mother was right behind us and she calmly caught the baby while he called 911.

What was the first thing you did after your baby arrived?

I managed to pulled my yoga pants down to mid thigh and my yoga pants “caught” my baby. I looked down to see the back of her and she was blue, then she turned pink in seconds when she started to cry. Nobody was in the car with me at the time. My husband had run into the Emergency area of this hospital and was yelling for help at the time of my baby’s birth. I picked up my baby, and all of the sudden my husband ran up and opened the passenger door of our car where I was sitting. We were both in total shock. An emergency room doctor and nurses came running out. My husband cut the cord in the car. The medical staff were all freaking out and in a panic. I thought, “why are they freaking out? It’s over!” They covered me up and placed me on a stretcher and put my baby in a baby cart crib after wrapping her in a pillowcase from a pillow I had in my car. We were then taken to an emergency room.

The first thing we did was make sure the baby was breathing. When my water broke at home, I noticed meconium and that concerned me. We rubbed her back and made sure the cord wasn’t around her neck before we even checked the gender and realized it was a girl!

What did the birth center or hospital staff say when you arrived?

When I arrived in the Emergency room I was told to push out the placenta, and I had to vocally stop the nurses from vaccinating my baby immediately upon arrival. They were in such a panic and were trying to figure out what to do with a newborn baby. A gynecologist from my midwife’s office came over to see me because she was next door and could come right away. It was a surprise and relief to me when she said that I did not need stitches!

I called my midwife from the ambulance and said, “Well, you’re not going to deliver my baby today…” She met us at the hospital where I was able to deliver the placenta. All the nurses seemed amazed, and there was a lot of excitement in the air.

Would you tell another mama who’s about to give birth in a car?

Pray and you’ll be okay. God protected me and my baby that day.

Don’t panic, stay calm, and enjoy this experience. Your body was made to do this! It doesn’t matter if you’re in the woods, the hospital bed, a bath tub, or a car!  (And take a billion pictures!)

Bonus question: How did you clean your car afterward?

My husband put a towel underneath me before we left our house because my labor started with my water breaking. We have light cloth covered seats in our car and our car did not have to be cleaned at all. There was no blood on the seat of the car, on the towel, or on my baby. It was a bloodless birth. The water from my water having broke before we left did not cause any damage whatsoever.

There wasn’t really too much of a mess since the placenta was delivered at the hospital. We cleaned it up with a little vinegar, Castile soap and essential oils. (My sisters make their own cleaning product, and they have an amazing all-purpose spray!) 

Woman gives birth in car videos

Seen by over 36 million views, this is a pretty outrageous video of a woman giving birth to a 10lb baby on Beltway 8 in Houston on the way to birth center. Amazing job mama!

Whoa! These folks couldn’t even pull over in time before their baby was born in the car.

Baby’s already born by the time this video starts, but it does show some of what happens afterward when the ambulance arrives.

How about you?

Every worry about delivering in the car? Did you deliver your baby in the car? Share with us in the comments below!

Photos by Christine R and Cheryl Orluck, who took Amber D’s photos.

Learn how to have an amazing birth with the Mama Natural Birth Course

16 Comments

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  1. I had baby number two in our car. Kind of a silly thing but useful nonetheless….a childbirth class suggested keeping a plastic shower curtain liner in your car in case you do end up birthing in the car. I have no idea how I remembered to actually open it and lay it across the seat but it sure saved us in having to clean up afterwards! Also, stuff some baby blankets and a baby hat in your car in the weeks leading up to your due date. We were at least able to the wrap our (February) baby up 🙂

  2. I had baby 2 in the car on the way to the birth center a few months ago. My mother in law was driving. My husband was in the back seat with me. My water broke in the car and shortly after my body started pushing, but I didn’t tell them. I just got really inside myself. It was dark out so they couldn’t see what was going on. Between contractions I began feeling for a head with my hand and it wasn’t until I felt the top of her head that I realized that I was going to have her right there. I was on my knees using my toddler’s empty car seat to brace myself. A couple contractions and I could feel her little face with my fingers. One more and out she slipped out. They heard her cry and were in total shock. I held her to me and just perched there on floor of the back seat totally content until we got there about 20 min later. I didn’t nurse her purposefully so as to not contract and deliver the placenta. It was an amazing experience.My body knew what to do and all I did was let it happen. My advice to any laboring mother is to trust that your body knows what to do even when your cognitive brain does not. Trust the process through the discomfort. Believe that the overwhelming sensations you are experiencing have a purpose. And yes you can do this! The physical place is irrelevant. The mental space is crucial.

  3. I have never had children like this in the car, we will try to learn the experience from you. Thank you for sharing

  4. I know this post is older but I loved it! I was born in our big ol’ blue Dodge van on the way to the hospital. I don’t know what these mamas went through but I’m proof it can be done! Thank you for sharing so candidly.

  5. The birth classes I took all told us to wait (the 5-1-1 rule) otherwise we would be sent home and not admitted. I have a good 40 minute drive. I can see why there are more car births! My mom went to the hospital at the first sign of a contraction. Now they have us so freaked out to go to the hospital just to be sent home. I hope I can figure out the warning signs of when to go ASAP.
    They assured us that first babies come slow… or the ones that don’t usually aren’t complicated. I hope so!

  6. Haha…wow, I was surprised to see an article on this! I really enjoyed reading all these stories! We had our fourth baby in the car a little over a year ago. I did have fears of it happening because my labors are fast, but convinced myself that it wouldn’t actually be a problem….almost everybody makes it….right!? I was 5 days overdue, had been having a lot of false labor and was having contractions yet again that day, but nothing regular or painful. Midwife said to come in, just in case,…my mom came over directly to stay with the kids, and we left. By the time we left for the hospital, contractions just started to lengthen and seem more real. Unfortunately, we had an HOUR drive to the hospital….halfway my water broke and contractions intensified. My husband was trying to get us there quickly, but it was winter – the roads were icy and for awhile we were stuck behind a snowplow on a two-lane highway. When the contractions changed to pushing contractions, I knew we weren’t going to make it. I turned around on my knees in the passenger seat and gripped the back. My husband pulled over, ran around to my side and we were both there to catch our little girl. My husband was amazingly calm through the whole thing…assuring me, driving bad roads, calling the hospital. I remember saying between pushing contractions, “I can’t believe this is happening!!” Our midwife had us pull our car into the ambulance garage, so the transition up to our room was so smooth. Our baby was perfectly fine and healthy. We are so grateful for God’s goodness and protection. We named her Mercy.

  7. Hi Genevieve! I’ve never birthed in a car, but just about did with my last baby. If we’d hit any red lights it surely would have happened. As soon as I got in the car my water broke and I was naturally bearing down immediately. I could hardly even get out of the car at the hospital 10 minutes later. The nurse pushed me right up in a wheelchair, I crawled onto all fours on the bed, pushed twice and then he was out! Since my labor was only 2 hours, I’m thinking I’ll need to prepare for the possibility of a home birth next time.

    But I also had a question Genevieve. (My SIL’s name is Genevieve too 🙂 ) I wanted to inquire about guest posting on your site. You mentioned on your contact page to ask you in a blog comment. Here it is! I look forward to hearing back, thanks!

  8. I’m surprised at how many car births there are! We are having a baby in a few weeks, and we just moved outside of town. I’ve been joking with my husband that he might want to watch a car delivery, just in case the extra distance makes a difference. I was tickled to see this article. But maybe I should stop joking about it. 🙂

  9. For my third, we made it as far as the hospital parking lot and, like one of the women above, my husband ran inside to get help, so I was actually by myself when I delivered. The gurney ride into the ER was classic comedy movie fare, but otherwise the whole thing was really pretty calm. Baby and I were healthy and able to go home the very next day. I had a lot of fun telling that story and some of the comments and reactions I received were hilarious! Baby #4, however, was a planned homebirth and I did prefer it that way!

  10. The same thing happened to me twice with baby 2 and baby 5. The 3 that weren’t car deliveries were c/s and 2 inductions. My labors are so quick like 2hrs or less and the nearest hospital is 30 min away without traffic. It is comforting to know I’m not the only one😀

  11. Just had my third child in the backseat of my teenage brother’s car about three months ago! Just like Bridie above, I went from ctx 6 minutes apart to 2 min/transition, and since it was a Sunday, we had beaten the midwife to the birth center and no one was there. Thankfully, it was an empty, abandoned parking lot, as my rear end was sticking out the door (I like pushing on hands and knees). Midwife was on speaker phone. My husband was sooo calm and the student midwife got there right as I was crowing. She caught the baby and undid the double nuchal cord! Then thr midwife got there and she unlocked the birth center and got us in there to deliver placenta and recoup. The midwives did an awesome job cleaning the backseat and I’m pretty sure my bro drove some of his buddies in it the next day!!😂 Home birth for me in the future!

    • Love that your husband was calm! That’s one of the first things people ask me when I tell them what happened. “How was your husband?” He was great!!!

  12. I labored almost my entire birth at home due to my midwives telling me I had a “stomach flu” when instead I was actually having labor contractions! I had taken the Bradely Method class so I was pretty happy to do most of the labor at home until the pushing started and that was pretty unexpected! By the time we called the birth center 12 hours later they said come in right away and I was pushing in the car on the way! I walked myself into the center and gave birth about 1 1/2 later! Praise God we were okay but it has me thinking that the next possible birth will be even faster!

  13. I had my second in the car three months ago. My contractions went from zero to sixty in about 30 minutes. I knew when we left the house we weren’t going to make it, but my husband gave it a solid effort!!
    We were only a few blocks away when I knew I couldn’t sit anymore, so I got on my knees in the front seat, facing backwards, pushed once and could feel that the head was out. One more contractions/push and she was born. Thankfully I had a scarf in the front seat with me to wrap her in. We hadn’t found out the gender, so when we pulled up – the midwife opened the door and said “is it a boy or girl?” “I don’t know, I haven’t looked yet!”
    Also, she was born en caul (it burst when I caught her) – I’m so bummed my birth photographer wasn’t there to capture that!!!

  14. I had my last baby on the side of the freeway. It was great! It was the best birth I ever had, and I didn’t need any stitches! I didn’t make any mess at all b/c I wasn’t actually in the car when pushing, but squatting just outside of it. Now that I am pregnant again, however, and nearing my due date my OB is really pushing for me to be induced. I would rather have another freeway baby then be induced!

    • Wow! I’m wondering why your OB wants to induce you when you clearly go into labor just great on your own. Maybe a home birth would be a perfect fit for you 🙂 Congrats on your pregnancy! Be sure to sign up for our free week-to-week email series. Xo

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