What to Do if Someone Is Having a Baby

Helping someone who's in labor can be scary but satisfying

It may not be likely that you will have to step in to help during a delivery, but knowing what to do if someone is having a baby is a good idea. When a baby is coming and there isn't time to get the mother to the hospital in time, follow the steps listed here.

What to Do if Someone Is Having a Baby: Steps to Follow

If you are with a woman in labor and it appears that delivery is imminent, it's important to stay calm. By doing so, the mother is less likely to panic. If you are traveling to the hospital in a vehicle, pull to the side of the road or into a parking lot. Trying to drive while helping to deliver a baby isn't safe and you don't want to cause an accident.

  • Call for Help

Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if you are able to access a phone. Once the call has been made, reassure the mother that help is on the way.

  • Tell the mother to slow down her breathing

The mother should breathe slowly. If emergency personnel are only a few minutes away and the baby isn't crowning, tell her to pant instead of bearing down. Three pants and then a long breath out should help to slow down the delivery for a few minutes, which may be enough time for help to arrive.

If the baby won't wait until help arrives because the mother has an overwhelming urge to push, you will have to help the mother to deliver the infant yourself. If you have a towel or a blanket available, place it under the mother's legs so that the baby can be wrapped up shortly after being born.

  • Support the baby's head as he or she is being born

The baby will probably be in a face down position during delivery. Gently place your hand on the baby's head, allowing it to emerge slowly. Don't attempt to stop the baby from being born by holding the head or pushing against it.

Once the head is delivered, the shoulders should emerge one by one. After that point, the rest of the baby's body will follow relatively quickly.

  • Clear the baby's nose to allow him or her to breathe

Once the baby has been delivered, stroke down on his or her nose to remove excess mucous and any amniotic fluid.

  • Keep the baby warm

The baby will need to be kept warm after delivery. Use a blanket if one is available; if not, a shirt will do. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother will help to keep the baby warm, and you can cover both of them with the blanket, a coat, or a shirt until help arrives.

  • Don't cut the umbilical cord

You can use a clean shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord, but don't cut it. Paramedics or a doctor should look after cutting the cord once they arrive or you have successfully transported the mother and baby to the hospital.

  • Encourage the mother to start nursing

By allowing the baby to latch onto the mother's breast, the amount of bleeding after delivery is reduced due to the release of hormones that make the uterus contract.

  • Deliver the placenta

The placenta will usually emerge approximately 20 minutes after the baby has been born, but the process can take up to 60 minutes. The mother will likely feel another urge to push at this point. Don't tug or pull on the umbilical cord to dislodge it. Doing so may cause the mother to start hemorrhaging.

The placenta is about the size of a dinner plate, and it looks similar to a piece of liver. Once it has been delivered, place it beside the baby.


Knowing what to do if someone is having a baby will give you the confidence to respond to the situation appropriately.

What to Do if Someone Is Having a Baby