Humans have babies and we certainly can’t plan them around natural disasters or other catastrophic events. If you find yourself needing to assist a mother in delivering her baby or you’re simply curious about how babies are delivered, here are some quick tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
Once labor starts, which means that contractions are getting closer together and more regular, it’s important to stay as upright and active as possible. Contrary to what they show you in the movies the best position for mother in labor is an upright position, which enables the uterus, and gravity, to work together to get the baby out. Also, staying active will help the baby move into position for delivery, and sink further into the pelvic area, and ready herself to twist out.
Eat and drink
Eating and drinking should be common sense, but you’d be surprised how many hospitals won’t allow it, even after doctors have explained that eating and drinking in labor is recommended. Labor is a marathon event that needs proper hydration and fuel to get through it. Thankfully, being outside of a hospital setting it will be easier to eat and drink without anyone telling you not do. Take frequent sips of water, juice, or red raspberry leaf tea and munch on dates or other high-energy nutrient dense foods like power bars or fruit. Dates have also been proven to reduce the length of labor and help prevent hemorrhaging post-partum – if you can get ahold of some, great! If not, any nutrient dense high calorie foods will do.
Watch and wait
Much of labor and delivery involves watching and waiting. The word obstetrics itself means to sit and watch – which is supposed to be the primary role of any doctor. Nowadays, most doctors are very hands-on in the process, interfering with nature and not letting labor progress as it should without augmentations, drugs, and other interventions. A SHTF situation is an ideal situation for birthing naturally; and best for both mother and baby in terms of speed and ease of labor. The natural hormone cocktail produced is perfect for healing post-partum.
Remember also that delivering a baby is a process and it can have false starts, slow moments, or be super speedy, every woman is different and every labor is different so just watch and wait and be supportive of the laboring woman.
What does it mean to be supportive? It means to be sure to tell her she is doing great, reminding her that it is a natural process and she will get through it, reminding her that staying active and fueled will make the process faster and easier, and more. Being supportive can also mean holding her hand, massaging her back, or applying counter pressure to her hips during contractions to ease the pain. Familiarize yourself with other pain relief techniques like using a robozo (a Mexican long cloth) to help life and support the belly or apply needed counter pressure to the hips in labor – the woman you’re supporting will thank you.
Women need to know they are doing a great job, even as their confidence wavers and the pains get more intense. For women who thought they would be delivering in a hospital, and those who see that as the only safe place to deliver a baby, may need to be reminded often that birth is a natural process and can happen everywhere in a safe and healthy way. Remind them that their body and baby knows what to do and they just have to listen to themselves and stay active – moving when they feel like moving, and changing positions often to get baby down and out.
Get into position
As previously mentioned it’s best to stay upright and active in labor. There are tons of charts online of appropriate positions, and ways to change it up if one position for laboring becomes uncomfortable or unbearable. Positions include standing, sitting, rocking, squatting, kneeling, hands and knees, leaning over something like a stack of pillows or sofa, and supported standing positions. As a woman gets closer to the end she will probably feel like getting closer to the ground, so good positions for delivery are leaning, semi-squatting (one knee on the ground and one foot on the ground), hands and knees, or, if they are flexible and supported – squatting.
Lying on her back is the absolutely worst position to be in for labor and delivery. Not only does it make the uterus work against gravity making contractions less effective and more painful, it also closes the pelvic outlet by up to 30%, making it that much harder to get the baby out. There’s a reason hospitals are always needing to intervene in deliveries – in order to make the delivery convenient for the attendants they make it painful and more dangerous for mother and child. Forget what you’ve seen in the movies about a woman on her back with legs in the air or in stirrups, hands and knees or some other close to the ground upright position is the way to go if you want to have a safe and complication-free natural delivery. Encourage her to maneuver and try different positions until she’s comfortable.
Don’t pull the baby
Whatever you do, resist the urge to pull the baby once you see it coming out. It can take a few contractions for the baby to twist its way through the pelvic outlet. In most casesthe baby’s head comes first through the oval opening, then the baby turns and the shoulders have to fit through the same oval opening.In essence, the baby kind of corkscrews through the birth canal. If you pull on the baby you can end up dislocating the shoulder or causing even more lasting irreversible damage and brain injury (like cerebral palsy), let the baby emerge on its own time and at its own pace.
Don’t cut the cord
Once the baby emerges there is no need to cut the cord right away. The placenta and umbilical cord will continue to circulate blood for a few minutes, making sure that the baby has all its blood and all the toxins are circulated out of their body. For best results, wait until the cord stops pulsing.
Studies like this one about the Leboyer childbirth method from 1995 have shown that infants who have delayed cord clamping end up retaining about 32% more blood volume than infants who have access to all their circulating blood terminated after birth. Giving them all their blood increases fetal hemoglobin, blood volume, and iron stores. The oxygen-rich blood also continues to circulate as the baby takes its first experimental breaths – supplementing their lung-harvested oxygen and making for a smoother transition to life outside the womb.
Immediate skin to skin
Encourage the mother tohave immediate skin-to-skin contact with their baby. This not only gives the baby those crucial first moments of attachment, but also warms them up and will encourage them to be more alert and ready to breastfeed. Immediate skin to skin will trigger the cocktail of love hormones that make the pain of childbirth all worth it –promoting the expulsion of the placenta as well.
Breastfeeding is normal and natural, and best attempted in the first moments after delivery while the baby is most awake after the birthing ordeal. Breastfeeding is essential to newborn bonding, is nature’s perfect food, provides milk easily digestible to a newborn baby, and also seeds their blank microbiome – ensuring proper gut health from day one.
If you place a baby stomach first on their mother with the breast exposed they will tend to move naturally and kick up to the breast. It can be challenging to get the hang of but babies are hard-wired to breastfeed and will soon be absolute pros.
After the baby is born you may think that the birth is a done deal, well not so fast. There is still a large organ inside that was keeping the baby alive all those months, and it needs to come out before a woman’s body can start to heal. After the first few minutes, especially if a mother is breastfeeding, her contractions to expel the placenta should pick up again, encourage her to get up and walk around. Most placentas are delivered within the first hour or so, especially if the mother breastfeeds straight away after birth. However it’s been recorded that some placentas can take as long as 24 hours or so to expel from the uterus.
Resist the urge to pull on what remains of the umbilical cord to pull it out. This can result in additional tearing and bleeding and may lead to hemorrhaging.
The important thing to remember here is not to massage the uterus or encourage it to shrink insize before the placenta is expelled. In extremely rare cases when the placenta is retained, in whole or in part, a woman might experience hemorrhage or infection.
Once the placenta is expelled check its appearance and look for any signs that it may not have come out in one piece. It should look relatively round with the cord coming out of the center. Encourage the mother to continue to breastfeed her baby on demand as this will help slow the internal bleeding and promote healing. Also encourage her to occasionally gently massage the abdominal area.
Hemorrhaging – Some blood is normal in delivery and post-partum, in fact, the women’s body has spent the last 9 months manufacturing additional blood to account for this known loss during labor and delivery. However if you suspect that or she is looking pale or is going into shock, encourage her to stick a bit of placenta in her cheek and munch and chew and on it – the hormones in the placenta may help stop the hemorrhaging.
Emergency situations – I’m not going to get into all the rare complications that may arise. If you are interested learning more in order to be superprepared for the most dire labor and birth situations I highly recommend Emergency Childbirth: A Manual by Dr. Gregory White.
Obviously, if you know a loved one is pregnant, it’s always good to plan ahead and have some of the items you might need, like cord clamps, towels, a deluxe medical kit and other labor support items ready ahead of time. You can also stock up on herbal medicines that will help in the rare case they’re needed. If you follow these tips and brush up on additional knowledge of rare complications you just may help a woman you love, or a stranger, deliver their baby quickly and safely.