How to Give Birth at Home During a Pandemic
There's no point in commenting how crazy things are right now – it is unprecedented, especially since we're dealing with a pandemic and that impacts hospital bed availability…
…something that's likely on your mind if you're due to have a baby soon!
Hospitals have pandemic protocols in place, and the hope is the maternity wards will not be impacted. But if overcrowding occurs, they may be. What do you do if you find you must give birth away from the hospital?
Step 1: Keep Calm and Gestate
Relax. Women have been having babies out of the hospital for a long time. I know you're probably thinking it's easy for me to say that since I intentionally had all 8 of my babies at home… but the truth is, birth works almost every time. Our high rates of intervention and even cesarean birth are not needed at nearly the rates we currently see. It may feel intimidating, but you and your baby have got this, awesome mama.
Step 2: Gather Supplies
Here's what you should have on hand to give birth at home:
- Receiving blankets
- A brand-new (or washed and boiled) shoestring
- Sharp scissors, boiled, cooled, then sealed in a clean plastic or paper baggie.
- Food and drink (preferably foods with protein and quick energy like fruits, nuts, yogurt, juice, etc. – the quick energy food is for labor, the protein food is for postpartum)
- Diapers or cloth diapers
- Baby clothes
- Pads or cloth pads for you
- A breast pump (if possible)
- Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are good to have on hand
- A second set of sheets for your bed
- Large Pads for you to use postpartum
Step 3: Wash and Set Everything Aside
I recommend you have a tub with your supplies set somewhere in your bedroom. Have “labor food” together in the fridge!
Step 4: Give Birth to Your Baby!
I know, it sounds very simple, but really, it is. Now there is a LOT that goes into birth mentally and emotionally, plus learning techniques, etc. I talk about all of that in my online birthing class, MamaBaby Birthing. But if you must give birth at home during an emergency…
- Move Around
- Eat Periodically
- Take Regular Sips of Water
- Get Up to Pee Periodically
- Talk to Your Baby & Trust the Process
It's worth stating again: get up to pee periodically (a full bladder can hold up labor).
If it feels very difficult, or if things feel “stuck,” get up and move.
Take it easy when you can – rest as you can (whenever you can). Movement is also helpful, especially as you're waiting for things to get going, or when you want to help move things along (changing positions can help your baby shift and move down). Good movements are:
- Going up and down stairs
- Dancing that involves good hip movement
- Movement that causes you to really move your hips (such as lifting your leg up over something) – make sure a support person is with you to help you stay balanced
Balance movement and rest – you don't want to wear yourself out, but movement can help handle discomfort during labor and open your body for your baby to move down.
You can do this. The only way to the baby is through birth, and you can do this. The quick-energy foods are good to keep on hand, too – eating a bite or two can give you needed energy, especially if it feels slow, or when it's time to push.
Pushing Your Baby Out
How will you know when it's time to push?
It's pretty undeniable – when your body starts pushing on its own, push your baby out! A quick burst of energy from juice, honey, even a soda can help.
If you've been pushing awhile (especially if this is your first baby), try getting on hands-and-knees or standing up (with someone to catch the baby or have pillows under you). While gentle pushing will often bring the baby right out with your body's help (the uterus acts like a piston and pushes the baby down), you may have to push hard, especially with a first baby. Stand up if you feel like things are slow – gravity helps! It's also okay to take a break from pushing and rest, have a bite of something sugary, and then change positions.
If you realize your baby is breech, stand up to deliver.
Tip: Spread towels on the floor, or blue pads/puppy pads, if you have them. A plastic shower curtain or painting drop cloths can also go underneat towels to protect surfaces. If does get on carpet, towels, or bedding, pour hydrogen peroxide on the stain – you can also put it into the washing machine with laundry. Have someone else do this you snuggle your baby!
Step 5: Stay Skin-to-Skin With Your Baby
It's okay to take a moment to breathe when your baby is born. Then gather your baby up and put him or her on your chest. Cover both of you with a towel and blankets – no hat needed! In fact, hormones are activated in your body by the smell of your baby – these hormones help bring the placenta and protect you from too much bleeding.
Rest together until the placenta comes – don't worry about the cord at this point. It's also completely normal if baby doesn't breastfeed right away – some babies take up to an hour to start nursing. Just keep baby next to your breasts and watch for signs that he or she wants to nurse.
Step 6: Birth the Placenta
When you begin to feel cramping again, that's most likely the placenta. It may take a little push to get it out, but it has no bones like baby, so it's easy! Once the placenta comes you can wrap it up with you and baby for a bit if you'd like, or set it in a dish to the side while you snuggle baby more.
Step 7: Baby's Cord
You don't have to cut the cord until you're ready, and don't cut the cord until the placenta has been born. Once the placenta has come, the cord will look white and flattened (at first it's thick, blue-ish, and spiraled).
You will tie about 2 inches (~5cm) away from baby's body. Tie the cord off tightly with the clean shoestring and cut with very sharp, clean scissors (boil them or wipe them down with rubbing alcohol if you can't boil them). The cord is tough! Then just let the cord get plenty of airflow daily – you can clean around the edges (near baby's belly button) with cotton swabs or the corner of a soft washcloth.
The 2-inch length is annoying, but it is also safe and it allows the cord to be clamped if you are able to get to your care provider. If it interests you, you can also leave the placenta attached – this is called lotus birth.
Step 8: Postpartum You and Baby
Spend lots of time skin-to-skin and in bed with your baby.
Relax and eat a lot.
Try and spend time daily in front of a sunlit window (with your baby) and even sit outside with your baby for a few minutes (after a few days postpartum) if it's warm and sunny.
It is safe for you to shower, but take quick showers and have someone close by, especially for the first shower.
Get up to use the bathroom regularly – an overly full bladder increases bleeding. You can and should feel your uterus – it should feel firm and be below your belly-button (navel). If it feels “boggy” or off to one side, you likely need to go to the bathroom. Get up, pee, and check again when you lie back down. Nurse your baby often to help keep the uterus firm.
Taking it easy and relaxing (let someone else do all the food preparation) will keep you and baby both healthy. Nurse your baby on demand around the clock during this time. A breast pump can help if you feel engorged with milk – just pump enough to relieve the pressure, then nurse baby.
Remember, breastfeeding is the best “medicine” you can give to your baby.
Lots of skin-to-skin time and rest will make for a quicker, easier recovery for you and a more abundant milk supply for baby.
This is practical, nitty-gritty advice on giving birth out-of-hospital. If you'd also like information on how to mentally prepare for birth, and techiques to hand labor pain and keep things moving smoothly, my MamaBaby Birthing class is fully online and available instantly! Click here for full details on MamaBaby Birthing.
MamaBaby Birthing also has a “crash course” option that you can go through in just a day or two – if you're worried about how you'll handle labor or want techniques that work anywhere you give birth, go ahead and check it out!
I also recommend that you print this page to have on hand – if you'd like more to have on hand, click here to download a PDF copy of the classic book Emergency Childbirth & emergency childbirth cheat sheet printables!