Imagine you’re laboring at home, following your midwife’s recommendations to wait until contractions are strong and frequent before heading to the birth center or hospital.
But then something happens — some freak confluence of bad timing and/or natural disaster.
- Perhaps your contractions go from “Is this really labor?” to “IT’S TIME TO PUSH NOW!” in the blink of an eye.
- Or a winter storm is raging, your car’s snowed in, and all the roads are closed.
Mama? You’ve just signed up for an unassisted home birth.
Here’s what you need to know in case the unexpected happens.
How Common Is Unassisted Birth?
OK, let’s just take a deep breath and have some fun here. Because you are NOT going to find yourself in this situation (the odds are definitely in your favor).
Just 0.17% of babies are born in unassisted birth situations. That’s right, a fraction of 1% of babies are born without a midwife or physician present, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 2004.
Of course, those statistics don’t account for those who may choose unassisted childbirth, also known as freebirth, DIY birth, unhindered birth, or unassisted home birth. But the number of mamas choosing freebirth is minuscule.
Why Does Unassisted Birth Happen?
We talked to Certified Nurse Midwife Cynthia Mason for her input on what to do if you unexpectedly find yourself in an unassisted birth.
Cynthia points out there are some things completely outside of anyone’s control that could impact the midwife’s ability to attend the birth. Think floods, hurricanes, blizzards, or even unexpected traffic jams where you have to give birth in your car.
What occurs most commonly though is the laboring client ends up having a very rapid labor and the midwife does not have adequate time from notification of the labor to make it to the birth.
Often times, mamas who are on the second or subsequent birth will find themselves moving rather rapidly through the stages of labor.
No matter how it happens, you’ll want to know what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
How to Have an Unassisted Birth (in 12 ‘Easy’ Steps!)
1. Stay Calm!
This goes for mama and her birthing partner!
It is probably easier said than done, but if you can keep as calm as possible, that will also help your birthing mama remain calm so she can complete the task of birthing the baby.
2. Call 911
Know when to call in those big, bright, siren-blasting reinforcements.
I encourage women and families to always call an ambulance if it’s clear that you are at home or in a car and you will be unable to make it to the hospital.
Cynthia explained how ambulance providers have received training to help stabilize moms and babies and carry life-saving medications and oxygen. These can help babies breathe and transition, as well as ensure mamas don’t lose too much blood after a delivery.
Coming upon winter time in the northern parts of the United States where it can be cold and the roads can be affected by weather — I also tell birthing families that if it seems a labor is happening quickly, stay in your home and call an ambulance.
3. Prep Some Blankets or Sheets
See No. 5 and No. 9 for more details, but suffice it to say, childbirth is not a neat and tidy proposition.
4. Let Mama Do What Comes Naturally
Cynthia pointed out that a birthing mother will realize she is close to delivery because of her body uncontrollably pushing or bearing down without her trying to push. As the baby’s head gets lower, a natural ejection reflex kicks in and the body starts to push. Mama needs to get in the position that is most comfortable for her — she’ll know!
5. Expect a Mess
It is very normal for women to poop as the baby is emerging.
Expect “number 1” as much as “number 2”! Cynthia mentioned that the pressure of the baby’s head on the pelvic floor can cause mamas to empty their bladder as well. This is totally normal and totally expected.
6. Be Ready to Catch Your Little Rocket Baby! ?
This baby is obviously ready to meet the world at Mach speed, so be ready to catch! Have your birth partner in his or her best catcher’s stance, or make sure you are close to a soft surface to help catch the slippery speedster.
7. Do Not Pull on Any Part of the Baby or Umbilical Cord
The head will emerge first, then there may be a brief pause as another contraction will push out the shoulders. From there, the rest of the body will glide right out! Do not try to unwrap the umbilical cord until the baby is completely out of the mother. Then, if umbilical cord is still wrapped around the neck or body, Cynthia instructs you to gently unravel it.
8. Snuggle with Skin-to-Skin Contact
Immediately place the baby on the mother’s chest for much needed skin-to-skin contact. You can cover mom and baby with a blanket or sheet for warmth. Cynthia recommends gently rubbing the baby’s back at this time. Don’t stress if your baby racer isn’t heartily crying right away — the baby is still receiving oxygen from the umbilical cord. Drying the baby and wiping the nose and mouth can encourage breathing and crying.
9. Expect More of a Mess
There will be a veritable flood of amniotic fluid and blood after the baby. It will seem like there is a lot more blood than there really is!
10. Deliver the Placenta Within 5 to 30 Minutes
Chances are that emergency personnel will arrive before the placenta. At any rate, leave the umbilical cord intact and do not cut or tie it until emergency personnel arrive or a skilled provider is present.
11. Head to the Birth Center or Hospital in the Ambulance
Time to get everyone checked out!
12. Take a Deep Breath. You Did It! You Just Had an Unassisted Home Birth!
Some Good News About Unassisted Birth
Unassisted births are usually fast!
Luckily, if an unassisted birth happens, it’s probably because of a fast, efficient, and rapid labor. Cynthia says that, in her experience, these babies are born quickly and without any issues.
In fact, Cynthia shared that the only deliveries she’s narrowly missed were births that happened extremely quickly. Cynthia reassures, “We are talking about 30 to 45 minutes or so from the initiation of labor to the delivery.” If you go from realizing you are in labor to delivering 45 minutes later — count yourself blessed!
Unassisted birth videos
For further inspiration, here are a couple videos of unassisted birth for your viewing pleasure!
What About You?
Have you had an unassisted birth? Concerned about the prospect? Share with us in the comments below!