Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the internet has recently been trending with some very interesting baby births – absolutely unplanned ones! The latest to catch our eye was baby Kadiju who was born aboard a Turkish Airlines flight, at about 42,000 ft, when her mother went into labour at 28 weeks after she had boarded the plane. In another heart wrenching story from Peru, baby Cielo was born on April 4, aboard a rescue helicopter on which her mother was one among several villagers being air-lifted from a flooded village in Northern Peru. Her birth was completely improvised by the Army personnel aboard the helicopter. On April 7, Vipin Bhagwanrao Khadse, a final year MBBS student delivered a baby boy with the help of instructions from his seniors through Whatsapp, on the Ahmedabad-Puri Express at Nagpur, India. If you thought this was it, there’s a car birth too! Baby Phoenix from Long Island, New York, was born in a Range Rover even as his parents sped towards the hospital as his mother went into labour. The mother said of the birth “I took my sweatpants off and he was just there, it was totally the easiest way to do it.” (Credit: News 12 Long Island).
As bizarre and amazing as these birth stories sound, they can be equally stressful for both the mother and child, as well as the people around them who are caught in an unexpected moment. Luckily for the mother in the last case, her baby simply seems to have delivered himself inside his parents’ vehicle. But, more often than not, if a pregnant woman goes into labour in a place without access to immediate medical attention, she may need some support to help deliver her baby. If you ever find yourself on a flight with a pregnant woman going into labour, here are 10 things to follow to rise to the occasion:
- Talk to the mother: You’re not an expert at delivering babies, so where would you begin? Always, by asking the mother-to-be about her condition. Checking if she has given birth before can help you understand if she’s mentally and physically prepared for the birth. If she has given birth before, it’s likely that she knows what’s coming. If it is her first time giving birth, gently assure her that she is going to get all the help there is from those around her. Starting off with a little medical history will make you feel more confident.
- Her comfort: With the situation being unplanned, it is highly likely that she feels overwhelmed, helpless and possibly in pain too. Try to make her feel as comfortable as possible by resting her on a makeshift bed or seat, with a sheet to cover up if she wants one. If it is the initial phase of labour, gently massaging her lower back will help her feel better.
- Check on Contractions: During the state of dilation (widening of the cervix during childbirth) the mother might experience contractions in her lower abdomen. These may be quite obvious to notice as the mother will be in considerable pain when this happens. Understand the frequency of the contractions; if the contractions occur at regular 3-4 minute intervals, she is probably entering into the next phase of labour – giving birth!
- Food: If she asks for food or water, and remember she is likely to get thirsty thanks to the sheer physical exertion, give her small amounts of food, water or fruit juice.
- Hygiene: Given the environment is not sterilized, it would be best not to try to wipe any vaginal secretions as they may contaminate the mother’s birth canal. To an extent, only use clean cloth around the mother or when wiping your hands.
- Delivery: You’ve helped the mother through her first phase of labour, now it’s time to help her baby make it out into his or her surprise surroundings! The mother might want to move her bowels, but ensure that she is not allowed to bend over once she is in the second phase of labour – this might put pressure on the baby and result in complications. It is best for her to lie down until the birth is completed. Have the mother bend her knees and keep her legs apart to allow for the crowning (this is when the baby’s head appears in the birth canal). To help the mother feel comfortable, speak to her and explain that examination will be necessary to ensure the delivery happens smoothly. This will help her gain your trust and allow you to help her. As the baby emerges, be prepared to support its head with your hand. In some cases the umbilical cord of the baby might be around its neck. This situation should be handled carefully; do not pull the baby by force, gently use two fingers to slip the cord over the baby’s neck or shoulder to remove it from tightening around the baby’s neck. As soon as the baby’s head and neck appear, you’re likely to see that the rest of the baby will be out soon too. Prepare to support the shoulders as the baby emerges, and allow it to happen naturally. Use both your hands to support the baby’s body now until the abdomen and legs have both emerged. The emergency landing has been successful!
- Baby after birth: A newborn baby will be slippery and covered in mucous and blood. This is natural. Wipe this away with a clean cloth, and allow for the mucous to drain completely from the baby’s nose. The baby will have cried by now, indicating it is breathing. If you sense that the baby is not breathing, gently rub its back or slap the soles of its feet to stimulate breathing. If this doesn’t work, give it a gentle mouth to mouth resuscitation with very small puffs of air. Once the baby begins breathing, wrap him or her in a towel and give it to the mother for breastfeeding, without tugging at the umbilical cord too hard, so the baby can feel warmth from the mother.
- Umbilical Cord: Now that mother and baby are doing fine, you may either leave the placenta and umbilical cord attached to the baby or you could clamp the cord with your fingers about 3-4 inches away from the baby’s body in two places and only then proceed to cut it in between.
- Placenta: The mother’s placenta should typically be delivered on its own within 15-20 minutes. Once you are able to see the expelled placenta, gently assess how the placenta and fetal membranes are attached to the mother’s vaginal opening. Gently tug at it, and without pulling it too hard, try to turn it or rotate it gentle to loosen it from within her abdomen. A small amount of bleeding is normal. Help the mother place cloth napkins between her thighs to help contain the soiling.
- Congratulations time: You’ve just helped deliver a baby! However, there’s work to be done before you can celebrate. Ensure the mother and baby are warm, and ask the mother if she needs anything, or if she is in any kind of pain apart from the stress of having given birth. Make arrangements to get the mother immediate medical attention in a sterilized environment, or best, to a hospital.
Remember, there can be complications with birth depending upon the mother’s pregnancy and medical history. The above tips can help you in a best case scenario, where the mother has had a fairly comfortable and normal pregnancy. If there are complications beyond your control, it is always best to first ask around if there are any medically trained people who can assist with the birth, or try to get the mother to a hospital as soon as possible.
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