When you picture what it would be like to give birth, you probably imagine a hospital or birthing center and being surrounded by experts and people that you love. What you probably don’t picture is having to deliver your own baby at home without help while a massive hurricane swirls around you. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to a woman in Miami on Sunday.
The woman, who has not been identified, went into labor at home and paramedics weren’t able to reach her because of Hurricane Irma, the Miami Herald reports. So, a dispatcher talked her through delivering her baby at home.
“We weren’t able to respond. So she delivered the placenta, also. Dispatch told her how to tie it off. She’s stable at home,” the city of Miami’s Assistant Fire Chief Eloy Garcia said. “We made contact with the assistant medical director here. Talked things through.” (A later tweet from the official City of Miami account said that doctors from the Jackson Health System helped over the phone.) The mom and her baby girl were later taken to the hospital by emergency workers but, it seems, everyone is OK.
“We probably see this every other year, usually where someone delivers on the way to the hospital,” Michael Cackovic, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.
It can also happen with women who have already had babies before because they may not realize or anticipate that their labor will probably progress more quickly than it did during their first birth, he says. Labors for first-time moms tend to be longer because it’s a new experience for their bodies, she explains, whereas the bodies of women who are already moms seem to know the drill.
Luckily, that means this kind of situation is more likely to happen with women who have had babies before and have at least some idea of what the experience is like, Yvonne Bohn, M.D., ob/gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells SELF. Unless, of course, you’re stuck in a hurricane.
The most important thing is to stay calm, which is obviously easier said than done. But getting anxious and upset can mess up your breathing pattern, which makes labor more difficult, Dr. Cackovic says. If you can, try to get help by flagging down a neighbor.
Then grab some towels and make sure you’re in a clean and comfortable place, Dr. Bohn says, which may be on your bed or in a reclining chair. It helps to be able to pull your legs back to push the baby out, she explains, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re in a place that allows you to have some movement. If the delivery is happening fast, which is common in these (rare) situations, “a lot of times the baby will just come out,” Dr. Bohn says. Even if it’s not a quick delivery, you’ll feel the urge to push when it’s time. “Your body will kind of tell you what to do,” Dr. Bohn says.
Once the baby is out, make sure the head is supported (which is why Dr. Cackovic says giving birth on the bed is a good idea), clean the baby off, and place them on your chest, covered with a blanket or towel. If the baby doesn’t cry at first, rub their back vigorously to help them start to cry so that they begin breathing, Dr. Bohn says.
Then, try to breastfeed the baby. This causes your body to secrete the hormone oxytocin, which prompts the uterus to contract and conserve blood loss, Dr. Cackovic says, adding that it can also help deliver the placenta on its own. “Bleeding is the most life-threatening thing to the mom,” he says. “Get the baby to the breast as soon as possible.”
If you know that help is on the way, you don’t have to cut the umbilical cord (paramedics can do it when they arrive). But, if you’re not sure when you’ll be able to get help, Dr. Bohn recommends tying off the cord with something sterile (if possible) or a shoelace in two places before cutting it in between the ties. The ties help keep the baby from losing blood on one end and keep the placenta from bleeding everywhere on the other. If you had a super-fast delivery, the placenta probably came out soon after the baby, Dr. Bohn says. If not, you’ll need to deliver that, too.
As soon as you can, get to a hospital so that you and the baby can get checked out to make sure everything is OK. Just know this: If you have to deliver at home, the odds are good that everything will be fine. “It is a scary process, but if something happens where the baby is coming fast, the likelihood that the baby is going to come out OK and easy is pretty high,” Dr. Bohn says.
If you do find yourself in this situation, know that you can always call 911 or your doctor who will coach you through the process. But, just in case, Dr. Bohn recommends that all parents-to-be know how to do this—whether or not the sound of hurricane force winds is in your birth plan.
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