Dislaimer: This article was written by my wonderful wife, a Certified Practical Midwife (CPM), doula, and natural childbirth educator. That said, it should not be considered as medical or professional advice whatsoever. Please seek the counsel of a trained doctor or midwife in your area for childbirth assistance whenever possible.
I know most people today think a baby needs to be born in a hospital. Most Americans believe the hospital is the safest way to have a baby surrounded by all the “amazing” technology. The good news for preppers is that having a baby at home is a very safe alternative to having a baby in the hospital and all this wonderful technology in childbirth is usually unnecessary.
While I believe there is a time and a place for all things including Cesarean sections and all the other interventions we see in childbirth (sometimes these things are lifesaving), most of the time, if you just let the body work in labor without interfering, the labor will go smoothly, babies will breathe, and moms will stop bleeding on their own. What most moms need in labor are food, water, rest and support and these are all things we can do at home.
Home births are definitely safer when they are planned and when a skilled care provider such as a trained home birth midwife is there to aid the family with labor and childbirth. While I support a woman’s right to choose where to give birth and with whom, I am not proposing that people try to have an unassisted birth at home. Having had both of my children at home with a midwife, I do think more women and babies would benefit from having a home birth with a skilled midwife at their side. But if disaster strikes and you are stuck to deliver the baby all on your own, it is good to know that most of what you need, you already have. Below are some examples of things you can do even without any hospital equipment.
A baby warmer is an unnecessary piece of equipment found in the hospital. After delivery, placing a baby skin to skin with his or her mother will provide all the warmth he or she needs. Studies show that a mother’s temperature on her chest actually adjusts to meet the needs of her baby, and a baby will have a more consistent temperature when skin to skin with mom than when placed on a warmer.
After a baby is born there is usually a hurry to clamp and cut the cord. The truth is, it is better to let the cord stay intact. In fact, although it may sound crazy to many people, you don’t have to cut the cord at all. If you did not have a sterile pair of scissors or string to tie off the cord before you cut it, you could leave the cord intact and keep it attached until it fell off on its own. This is called a Lotus Birth in some cultures. Of course, the placenta will still be attached, but if you had no other choice, it would be an option. If you have a way to clamp and cut the cord, it is beneficial to wait until the cord stops pulsating or the placenta is delivered. All the blood in the cord belongs to the baby and you want him or her to have it before the cord is severed.
The mother bleeding after the birth can be a concern. Here is where breastfeeding is essential. As the mother brings her baby to her breast, as the baby nuzzles at her breast and eventually latches, she is flooded with hormones that makes her uterus contract and helps her not to bleed too much. Feeding her baby regularly will continue to help her bleeding slow down and help her uterus return to its normal pre-pregnancy size. Plus it is the perfect endless supply of food for her baby – any prepper could appreciate that. Other things you can do to help with bleeding would be making sure the new mother keeps her bladder empty. This allows her uterus to contract fully without the bladder getting in the way. Massaging the uterus also helps it to contract if needed.
Almost every baby will breathe after birth on their own. Even if you do not have a suction bulb, holding the baby slightly upside down will allow for the mucous and fluid to drain from his nose and mouth. Rubbing the baby with a towel or blanket will help stimulate the baby to breathe if needed.
Staying upright and moving will help a mom in labor not only be more comfortable but also help the baby rotate properly which will help make a smoother labor. Even when pushing, encouraging positions like hands and knees and squatting will help the baby come out easier. Most babies will come out on their own. All you really have to do is catch the baby. If the baby seems stuck, feel around the neck to make sure there is not a cord around the neck. If there is, most cords can be unwrapped and then the baby will come out. If the cord is too tight, it may need to be tied off in two places and then cut for the baby to be born. If there is no cord around the neck and the baby still seems stuck, try changing positions. This will usually facilitate delivery.
If you had to birth alone and the mother tears, the great news is most tears will heal without stitches. As long as the tear is not bleeding, have the new mother stay in bed with her legs together. This will help bring the tissue back together and healing will begin. If she had a more severe tear, she will need stitches, but in emergency situations, all you can do is keep the tear from bleeding, keep it as clean as possible and try to keep the tissue together by keeping the mother in bed with her legs together until you can get more help.
No matter what happens, it is important to stay calm. Again, birth is inherently safe. Most of the time, everything will be ok. A woman’s body was designed to give birth and feed her baby… and she can do it even if she is alone and the “lights are out” if she has too.