How to Safely Deliver a Baby When Medical Assistance is Still Minutes Away

Today's post is from Jennifer Slater, author of En Route Baby: What To Do When Baby Arrives Before Help Does. While the vast majorities of babies are birthed in the presence of trained professionals, it can help ease your mind to know what to do in the event of a "highway baby."

small_4507034622.jpgMore than 30 babies are birthed each month before reaching the hospital or before the midwife can get to mom’s side, according to the number of emergency births reported to the media.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that the number of babies being born outside of hospitals, birthing centers or homes -- and who are being delivered by dads, grandparents or other untrained personnel -- has increased 20% since 2009.  Yet, people are rarely trained in basic childbirth procedures due to the misconception that “en route” births rarely occur.

Several years ago, I felt contractions start around 6:30 a.m. one chilly March morning, never guessing my baby would arrive less than 30 minutes later in the back of my jeep as my husband raced down the highway toward the hospital. After realizing some of the mistakes I made that could have cost my son his life, I decided to research basic childbirth procedures so that I could share the information with others.

After interviewing dozens of other parents who experienced emergency deliveries, I quickly learned that there is nothing to forewarn you of a precipitous delivery, and that these surprisingly fast births occur with both firstborns as well as second or third pregnancies.  But the good news is -- other than possibly putting partners into therapy -- every mom reported a fast and safe delivery; babies who arrive this quickly are born healthy and without complication. 

While the idea of delivering a baby may seem intimidating, being prepared can make all the difference. Here is an abbreviated list of instructions that will not only help put your mind at ease, but might be the information you need should the unexpected ever occur.

  • Get mom into a fairly comfortable position, preferably either lying down or kneeling
  • Place a disposable or waterproof pad or plastic sheet beneath her and remove any clothing that might be in the way
  • Have a towel or other fabric ready; baby will be slippery and need to be kept warm 
  • NEVER pull on the baby, he will emerge naturally with each contraction
  • Briskly rub baby dry and immediately wrap him snugly and put him skin-to-skin with mom (if possible) to retain his body heat, remembering to loosely cover his head as well
  • Check to see that the umbilical cord is not wrapped around baby's neck.  If so, carefully slip your little finger under the cord at the front of baby’s face, gently slipping it away from and over baby’s chin and head
  • Make sure baby is breathing.  Rub baby’s back or gently flick the bottoms of his feet to stimulate breathing, using Infant CPR only if necessary. (Be sure to sign up for an infant CPR class prior to your due date.)

NOTE:  It is not necessary to cut the umbilical cord prior to reaching the hospital as long as help will be available within 20-30 minutes. DO NOT pull on the cord as it is still attached to the placenta.

Toward the end of your pregnancy, always keep a few supplies in your car -- just in case:

  • Disposable or waterproof pad (a large trash bag would actually work double duty!)
  • Lightweight disposable gloves
  • Flashlight (don’t these things always happen at night?!)
  • One or two large clean towels
  • Infant bulb syringe (to clear baby's nasal passages)
  • Infant CPR instructions
  • Disinfectant wipes (for use on your hands, not on baby)

Jennifer Slater is the author of En Route Baby: What To Do When Baby Arrives Before Help Does.  In addition to public speaking and presentations (including a few baby showers!), Jennifer trains private groups, law enforcement personnel and university faculty in emergency childbirth procedures. The book is available at and includes a laminated Infant CPR/Delivery card.

photo credit: Oran Viriyincy via photopin cc

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