Emergency birth: What to do when you can’t get to the hospital


Much like we prepare for unlikely events such as fires or earthquakes, giving some thought to how you’ll deal with an emergency birth is smart thinking. We’ve known women who’ve accidentally delivered in the car en route to the hospital – and others who never made it out the front door. While first time moms typically have longer labors (read: plenty of time to make it to the hospital), there’s always a small chance labor will progress faster than you’d imagine. In those unlikely situations, your partner has a lot of work to do. Pass this one on to him so he knows just what to do in the case of an emergency birth:

Stay calm 

Or, should we say, pretend to be calm. The very last thing mom-to-be needs while experiencing contractions is to have you panicking right beside her. Keep your cool at all costs.

Dial 911 

Call an ambulance, then call your partner’s health care provider. Make sure you disclose all pertinent details when you dial 911. If you’re baby’s early or if your wife has any pregnancy complications, those are important things to share.

Read more: How to get dad-to-be involved in your pregnancy

Prep the place

Lay down towels beneath mom-to-be and make sure you have a clean towel or sheet ready to catch baby. Wash your hands and get a sealable bag ready just in case you’ll also have to deliver the placenta.

Know when it’s time

If your partner is certain baby’s arrival is imminent and she can’t make it to the hospital safely, you will have to keep an eye out for baby. When you see the baby crowning (meaning, you actually see his or her head at the vagina), then it’s time to push. Instruct mom-to-be to wait for each contraction and then bear down and push.

Don’t intervene

Don’t attempt to help remove baby once his or her head is on its way out. Once your baby’s head is born, gently support it with your hands, but do not pull or tug. When it’s time to deliver the shoulders, instruct your partner to push. While she pushes for 12 counts, guide baby’s head downward very gently. This should help encourage the shoulder to be born. Again, don’t pull. If the shoulders are slow-coming, allow your partner to push her way through. Once completed, switch directions and guide baby’s head gently up while mom pushes to release the other shoulder.

Position baby

Once baby’s entirely earth-side, help him or her breathe by draining any fluids from the mouth and nose. Do this by laying baby down with the head lower than the feet. If you can, return baby to mom for this step and let the two begin bonding with skin-to-skin contact. While it may be a bit awkward for now, let the umbilical cord be. Don’t attempt to cut it until medical help has arrived.

Read more: Should you worry about delivering in the car?

Smart tips:

  • It goes without saying that a gentle hand is absolutely necessary during labor. If baby is stuck at any point, don’t be tempted to pull or tug in an effort to help.
  • If your partner has delivered the placenta before medical help arrives, you will need to help stop the bleeding. You can do this by performing massage and giving gentle pressure to her belly.
  • If all else fails, rest assured that you’ve called an ambulance and they’ll be at your side shortly to save the day.


An emergency birth is not an ideal situation – but it’s also not extremely likely either. Talk to your doctor or midwife about any concerns you have about delivering before you’re at the hospital (or before you have your birth team present at home). He or she may be able to offer reassurance and share even more useful tips for getting through an emergency birth if it happens.

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