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 Certified Nurse Midwife on our editorial team.
How to give birth in your car in 12 easy steps
- Remain calm. Usually when babies come this fast, all is well and proceeds smoothly.
- Pull over. You and your partner will both be nervous, and this is not the time to have a car accident!
- 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.
- Grab whatever clothing or blankets you have in the car and place them nearby.
- 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!)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.