How common are accidental home births like Erika Christensen’s?

By Sabrina Rojas Weiss | Originally Published Aug 02, 2018 on Yahoo | Featuring Dr. Sherry Ross

Last week, Parenthood actress Erika Christensen shared the tale of how she gave birth to her second child, daughter Polly, in a way that “will go down in family history.” Christensen’s labor happened much faster than she’d expected, and her husband, Cole Maness, had to deliver the baby all by himself. Mom, baby (and dad) are all doing quite well, but hearing this story might send some people into a panic, wondering how often does this kind of thing happen?

“Your second child will definitely come many hours faster than the first since it’s ‘been there and done that’ already,” Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. While she hasn’t had any patients accidentally give birth at home, she did once deliver a baby in a minivan parked in front of the hospital’s ER. “Your uterus, which is one large muscle, has already shown off its strength and muscle power during the first delivery. The uterus and vagina have a good memory from the first delivery, so once labor begins things move quickly and more easily.”

Many of the dramatic stories about accidental home births — or accidental name-your-nonhospital-awkward-location births for that matter — come from mothers who had been through long labors with their first child or children, and assumed that the one they were carrying would also take his or her time, even after their water broke.

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Christensen can probably attest to that, as she admitted on Instagram last week that the unassisted home birth was “my fault, as I didn’t know she would come so quickly and didn’t call the doc until far too late. He came straight over and arrived about one minute after she joined us in the world.”

Ross says there are some early signs that labor will go quickly. “If your doctor checks your cervix in the weeks leading up to the delivery and you are already dilated and the head is comfortably in the vagina, your labor may only last hours, if your bag of water breaks or you start to contract regularly,” she says.

Still, these situations, while exciting, are rather rare. According to a CDC analysis, 88 percent of U.S. home births in 2012 (in a 36-state reporting area) were planned, and home births only accounted for 1.36 percent of all births in the country that year. A study in Australia estimated that about four in 1,000 births are “born before arrival” at a birthing center or hospital.

If the labor does look like it’s coming on quickly, you definitely need to call your doctor as soon as possible. The sure sign that you don’t have time to make it to the hospital is rectal pressure, as in feeling like you’re about to poop. That’s when you should definitely not try to get into a car, Ross says. Instead it’s time to dial 911 and find a comfortable place to do this thing.

“The paramedics will have a better chance of delivering a healthy baby [at home] than having your partner deliver you in the back seat of the car along the side of the road,” Ross says.

You’ll need to have a warm blanket, clean towels, and something to clamp the umbilical cord, just in case. WhattoExpect.com lays out the steps for what to do if you’re really stuck doing it all on your own, Offred-style. The site recommends leaving the door unlocked for the EMTs, washing your hands, and setting up a plastic tablecloth or shower curtain on the bed or a rug.

While an early labor can mean the baby is well positioned and ready for the world, that doesn’t mean all of these accidental home births are without risk. Ross warns that the baby might still experience fetal distress, and the mother might have excessive bleeding after delivery, both reasons modern women usually opt for giving birth with experts around and within reach of medical equipment.

Luckily, none of that was a problem for Christensen and baby Polly, as the actress declared, “She’s chubby-cheeked and rosy and so beautiful.”

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