It’s estimated that 12 percent of pregnancies result in premature childbirth. Usually, pregnant women can expect 40 weeks to lapse before giving birth, but in a premature childbirth, the woman goes into labor by the 37th week. Sometimes a woman can give birth almost two months before they are due.
Some conditions that cause premature childbirth are:
- Multiple babies (twins, triplets or more babies increase the chances of premature birth)
- Woman has a history of giving birth prematurely
- Abnormalities of the uterus or cervix
High-stress situations can also induce premature birth, such as in a survival situation. In case you’re in a situation where you’ll have to deliver a baby without the benefit of a hospital or a medical professional present, this article shows you how to do it in a way that ensures that the health and safety of the mother and newborn (or newborns) aren’t compromised.
Know the signs
If the expectant mother begins to exhibit these signs, chances are she’s about to go into labor:
- Pain in the lower back
- Regular contractions in the lower abdominal area
- Discharge of blood-stained mucus, or the beginning of her “water breaking”
What you’ll need
You may not have the benefit of a fully-equipped operating room, but with a makeshift triage a baby can be safely delivered, with the help of a few common household items. Apart from a clean, level, comfortable bed or surface on which the mother can lay on, you’ll need:
- Sterile scissors or sharp knife
- Three lengths of clean cotton string, shoelace or paracord, each measuring 8 inches in length
- Plenty of hot water for cleaning and sterilization
- Towels or large pieces of cloth
- Sterile gauze bandages
- Surgical gloves (if possible)
Anyone performing or assisting in the delivery must scrub their hands thoroughly, and no one should have any colds, any sickness or sores on their hands to prevent compromising the baby’s still-developing–, or the mother’s severely taxed, immune systems.
1st Stage of Labor
Once the woman is in labor, her uterus will contract in intervals of 10-20 minutes. There will be a greater discharge of blood-stained mucus, and cramp-like pain in 1-minute intervals will become more frequent. This stage can last from 8 to 12 hours.
2nd Stage of Labor
At this stage, expect half a liter of fluid to gush out of the mother; this means the amniotic sac enveloping the baby has ruptured, and the baby is being “prepped” for delivery.
The mother should lie on her back, bringing her knees up and grasping them with her hands, with her hand bent towards her knees and holding her breath during contractions. She can rest between contractions.
If you see the area surrounding the vagina and above the mother’s anus has become more pronounced, forming a “bump”, then delivery is near. When the contractions occur closer to each other, the mother can either lie on her side with her knees brought up and her buttocks close to the edge of the bed, or half-reclined on the bed.
During delivery, the mother should NEVER hold her breath. Be calm and supportive as she takes short breaths with her mouth open. Breathing this way eases the process of the baby emerging slowly. Should the mother have a bowel movement, wipe her clean from front to back to avoid directing feces and bacteria toward the delivery region. At this time, take your instruments and keep them in hot water until they’re needed.
Take note that during delivery:
- The baby usually comes out head first, but not always
- Carefully tear any membrane covering the baby’s face
- If the baby emerges with its umbilical cord around its neck, ease it over the head or loop it over the shoulder
- Support the baby’s head and body with your hands as it emerges, lifting it gently towards the mother’s abdomen
- Be prepared for the baby to be very slippery as it will be covered in amniotic fluid; you may “catch” it with a towel
- If the delivery takes more than three minutes or it didn’t appear head-first, pull very gently
Take one of the towels or cloths and bind it around the baby’s ankles. Allow the baby to dangle upside-down so fluid drains from mouth and nose. Hold its head slightly back, causing it to have its mouth open. Gently wipe off any remaining fluid or blood on its face and body with a towel.
If the baby doesn’t cry and doesn’t show any signs of breathing, begin to perform gentle mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Lie the baby on the mother’s breast. Don’t cut the umbilical cord yet. Allow the mother to lie on her back with her legs spread, to facilitate delivery of the placenta. This occurs about 10 minutes after delivery. Once the placenta has emerged, don’t cut the cord until it’s stopped pulsating and has turned white instead of blue. Note that the umbilical cord has no nerves, so cutting it is painless. Cut the umbilical cord by following these steps:
Step 1. Take a piece of your sterilized string, shoelace or paracord; tie it around the umbilical cord six inches from the baby’s navel.
Step 2. Tie another string eight inches away from the baby’s navel.
Step 3. Ensure that the first tie is really tight to keep the baby from losing blood.
Step 4. The cord is slippery, so take a piece of sterile gauze and use it to grasp the cord with one hand.
Step 5. With the sterilized scissors or knife in your other hand, cut the cord at the point between the two ties.
Step 6. Apply a sterile dressing over the cut.
Step 7. Keep the tie or binding of the umbilical cord clean and apply a disinfectant every now and then, and never touch the remnants of the cord with unclean hands; what’s left of the cord will simply fall off on its own in a couple of weeks.
Delivering a baby in a place other than a hospital can be a stressful, lengthy yet inevitably rewarding experience. Should you find yourself being responsible for delivering a baby in an emergency situation, foremost in your mind should be not to panic. A panicked “midwife” could only complicate matters and cause the mother and the baby undue stress. Remember that many babies have been born in worse situations, and survived. Remain calm, patient and supportive while taking heed of proper hygiene, and keeping the mother as comfortable as possible, and the emergency delivery you facilitate will prove to be as successful as it is memorable.