Preparing for Unassisted Birth

This information is compiled from various sources for informational purposes only.  If you or someone you know is preparing for a possible unassisted birth, this should not be your only information source.

Rather than post a list of necessary items, I’ll give some guidelines.  There are very few truly necessary things for birth, and you can generally make do with what you already have at home.  
For instance, one mother had an unexpected home birth with no supplies:  
They had just moved and most of their things were still in storage when she unexpectedly went into labor three weeks before the due date.  All they really had was a t-shirt to wrap the baby in after it was born, and they used thread to tie the cord and scissors from a first-aid kit to cut it.
Someone I know had a similar experience:
They were planning a hospital birth, but the mother had a very fast labor (40 minutes) and the baby was born in the bathroom before the father had even arrived home to help.  She had called him home from work and he got there after the baby was born and helped deliver the placenta.  He used a shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord, and kid scissors to cut it.
Unplanned home birth carries more risks compared to planned home birth.  Some women have a history of fast labor, and there are times they just don’t make it to the hospital or the midwife doesn’t get to their home in time for the birth itself.  In these cases it may be a good idea to plan for a possible unassisted birth in case things go so quickly that the preferred plans don’t work out.
The first and most important piece of advice:  Have faith.  Trust in your body’s ability to birth this baby.  In his book “Childbirth Without Fear” Dr. Grantly Dick-Read states that 95% of births can safely take place without any intervention.  This means the odds are in your favor to safely birth your baby without help.
“I like to tell my clients to remember their grandmothers and other female ancestors. Since the beginning of time, the women in her bloodline have given birth successfully, otherwise she, herself, would not be here having a baby.” – Melissa Chappell, Doula
Follow your body and do what instinctively feels right.  Don’t try to analyze anything, just let your mind go into the primal state that it will naturally go to if you let it.
Dr. Gregory White has a book about birth for fire fighters and police officers, in case they get a 911 call to a birth.  It’s a step-by-step guide that tells how to catch a baby.  Dr. White says “any normal 8 year-old can do this.”  If you have an older child or partner who can help, you can prepare yourself and them by reading this book.
Check for a nuchal cord: When the baby’s head is out, slip your index finger in to feel for the cord.  If there is a cord around the neck the baby may be able to “birth through the cord” or do a somersault as the head stays close to the mom’s body.  If the cord is very tight you may have to flex the baby’s head and slip the cord over it.  Very rarely do you need to cut the cord and unravel it before the rest of the body is birthed.
What if the head is out, but the body is taking a while?  The body generally slides out soon after the head, and usually comes out with one push.  If it seems to be taking a long time, the baby’s shoulder may be caught on the pelvic bone.  True shoulder dystocia is rare, but generally simple to handle.  Just get up on your hands and knees, and it will help shift the baby’s position and allow the rest of the body to come out easily.  If this doesn’t help, then you can reach in with your finger and gently pull the shoulder toward the baby’s chest and release it.

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