Managing labour on my own
August 3, 2018 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a dear friend. I am 38 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child and it is likely I will be on my own in labour for some of the time (my husband does nightshift and would also have to take our 2 children to our friend's house. No family nearby). Has anyone successfully induced labour via natural methods? Has anyone ever given birth on their own at home, accidentally or planned?
posted by Carravanquelo to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think I inadvertently induced my labor naturally at 36 weeks by one of these methods. But I made it to the hospital. Nipple stimulation, sex, (there are some points on the ankles you can rub and press but you'll have to look it up to be sure), walking.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:24 PM on August 3, 2018

So we maybe did this.

I'm the dad. We had both our children at home with a midwife - we were in Ontario at the time and delivery with a midwife is covered the same under OHIP as a hospital delivery. It was fine, I would not suggest giving birth anywhere without some sort of medical professional present unless it was an emergency. Perhaps look into getting a midwife? It seems weird to ask but at 38 weeks your friend must have already seen a doctor or midwife about the baby already right? They should be able to give some homebirth guidance where you/they live.

Anyway, the second kid was taking her time and the first kid had been like a 30 hour labour so I went and got castor oil. It's a thing apparently and I wouldn't necessarily suggest you or your friend do it just because my wife did it. But it did seem to get things going. Per the linked article I definitely would not suggest it before 40 weeks. Contractions had started but things were going slowly. My wife took a big slug of it, it was apparently very gross - it's basically drinking a quarter cup of oil - and things progressed quite quickly after that. The linked page goes into the side effects.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on August 3, 2018

I had a hospital and a homebirth, I run in ‚natural birthing‘ circles, I also have friends who had unassisted births (one intentionally/‚freebirths‘, the other unintentionally, because the midwife was late to arrive). What I would take from my own experiences and conversations with all of these people is:

- freebirth/unassisted birth can be OK for some people, but doing it out of...necessity, because there‘s nobody else around to take care of you, doesn’t sound like a good idea. Everybody should be able to find some kind of birth support if they want to. Put your energy into finding support (not necessarily a hospital, but support), instead of researching an unassisted birth you do not really want. At minimum you should be able to find a doula or just a friend who can come over when you go into labor. You deserve this, even if it‘s a hassle, even if it costs something. Apprentice doulas will take sliding scale clients.

-inducing labour on your own with powerful methods like castor oil and the like sounds like a really bad idea when you don‘t have any labor support (medical or nonmedical). That stuff kicks in like crazy some times...
posted by The Toad at 2:44 PM on August 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am a licensed physician who has delivered over 200 babies during the course of my training. It's true that in an uneventful delivery no one really needs to be there, strictly speaking.

Unfortunately there is no way to guarantee an uneventful delivery. I have seen several women exsanguinate in a matter of seconds without warning; and trust me that is a memory I wish I did not have. The first caesarian section I assisted in was "routine" and ended with me intubating a neonate right out the gate.

You can roll the dice and odds are good both you and your baby will be fine but there is a non-zero chance that your family could come home to find you, your baby, or both of you dead.

This isn't something I say coldly - you probably have perfectly valid reasons, and hell, my wife insisted on home birth - I myself am not a fan of modern obstetrics as practiced in the US, but you need to know the risks involved. That's all.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:07 PM on August 3, 2018 [55 favorites]

If you'll be giving birth at home, it would be much more valuable for your husband to be present than for your other kids to be absent. So if you think the baby is close to coming, he and the other kids should stay home with you- do not prioritize removing the kids if it risks you being alone.

But it really sounds like you need much more support than even just your husband present. Please don't risk your life and the baby's. Get proper support from an experienced person (doctor, midwife, doula).

This question feels like it's asking for dangerous advice. The idea of a person giving birth all alone with only this vaguely-phrased question for info is frankly terrifying.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:10 PM on August 3, 2018 [12 favorites]

I had homebirths and my children were involved (for the last birth one stayed to watch her second birth and the other child preferred to watch video games). However I had midwives. As mentioned above, birth is a natural process, but you still need professionals. The statistics on infant and maternal death before midwives/obstetrics is absolutely frightening. If your friend has not had medical care up until now, there is most likely non-judgemental care available (her mileage may vary in less developed countries/US).

The husband should NOT be leaving a labouring person, either the friend picks the children up or the kids are staying for a home birth/hanging out in the hospital waiting room. I have seen various inducements work, they should only be used under the care of professionals as they can make labour shorter and harder, which can be riskier than a slow progression.
posted by saucysault at 5:21 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am not a medical professional but I do work in maternal health care, and I've given birth twice. Please please please do not try to birth alone. The risks are too high. There's a very good chance all would be fine, but the consequences if something went wrong are too big to risk. Like you and the baby could die, quickly, and your children and husband will be left knowing you could have lived if you had medical care. Things do go wrong at the drop of a hat as said above. You also don't want to attempt to induce if you haven't been getting medical care. Are you sure the baby isn't breech or otherwise turned? Are you sure there aren't any issues with the placenta or cord? Induction brings risks and really shouldn't be tried solo. I know at least one person who's tried everything suggested, sometimes it works, sometimes not, but it's all been done in consultation with a medical professional.
I know several women who have birthed at home WITH a midwife and had a great experience, please consider that at least. I doubt most doulas would be willing to be your only birth attendant, due to liability, but you could likely find someone to stay with you and accompany you to a birthing center if your husband can't be there.

Maybe we're all misreading this question and you really just want company in early labor before you go to the hospital or birth center? If so, you want a doula.
posted by john_snow at 5:45 PM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have induced my labor with castor oil. It worked for me but gave me diarrhea, it's not a simple fun thing.

I've also had a midwife-assisted homebirth. I would never in a million years deliberately plan to give birth alone with no medical help.
posted by medusa at 6:55 PM on August 3, 2018

Advanced labor at home alone would, to me, be a 911 emergency. (Again for me, the same would be true of advanced labor at home with just a spouse or American "certified professional midwife") to help.) If you live in the US and are too remote from a hospital for an ambulance to reach you in the time a quick labor lasts, arrange to stay closer-in until you deliver. Be resourceful. Lives may depend on it.
posted by lakeroon at 8:59 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing the folks who say that giving birth unassisted is really not a good idea. Disaster pregnancies don't happen often, but if they do happen you do not want to be out of the reach of help. Take it from someone who woke up to find a priest giving her last rites after a go round with HELLP-- disaster can strike quickly and silently. You can give birth safely at home, but you need a midwife and a way to get to a hospital if you need to do so.
posted by frumiousb at 9:17 PM on August 3, 2018

Hey! I both successfully induced labor with the castor oil recipe in Ina May Gaskin's book -- and gave birth alone on the floor of my apartment. My daughter (second child) shot out like a cannonball. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I KNOW, you guys, one or both of us could have died, in any of a million ways (that floor was not super clean, for one thing -- funny what you remember) and I am neither trolling nor recommending this as a general practice. But I was young and healthy and most importantly, lucky, and it all went off without a hitch -- until I got to the hospital, that is.

I had intended to have my baby at a hospital with an obstetrician, stipulating for no drugs, episiotomy, or cesarian (unless my or the baby's life was in danger) as my insurance no longer covered midwifery. That had been how my son was born (my first child) at a non-hospital midwife place, with a certified nurse-midwife and it was great. Virtually no intervention -- at least, I felt un-fucked-with, which was very important to me then -- though the CNM would come in the room, do something, and leave again from time to time. Labor with my son was six hours, no drugs, no nothing, no problems except a minor tear. So here I am in labor with my second child, having had this great experience with the first one, and I have to go to the hospital, where they gut women like fish just so the doctors can make their tee time (forgive me, this is how I was thinking then -- not how I feel now) and strap you down and shoot you full of drugs... So I put off leaving for the hospital, though I did call my mom and my husband. My mom gets to my place, sees my current status, and goes We're going to the hospital NOW. Fine. So I go to get some clothes on, contraction comes, sit down on the floor, contraction passes, get up, sit down, get up, sit down, and without having accomplished getting dressed, I feel that the baby is making her way through the birth canal. My mom is at the other end of the apartment with my son, so I let her know I was giving birth here, now. She didn't come in the room or say anything at first, so at the time I didn't know whether she had fainted or what, and so I asked her to call the emergency room and just got on with it. My daughter was born -- pink, open-eyed, and with a perfectly round head (like a... cannonball!), everything was good except it was awkward to hold her while the placenta was still inside of me, because the cord was kinda too short.

So then my mom pulls herself together and comes in the hall where we are. She puts down my son, 15 months old then, and my son toddles forward with great interest to look at his sister. So we were all having a lovely little moment, looking at the baby and each other, and it crossed my mind to wonder how I was going to cut the cord, which of course was attached to the baby at one end and the placenta at the other. Do you just cut it? Do you have to tie a knot? I didn't know. Just then the paramedics and my husband arrived.

They came charging down the hall, like Stormtroopers, I thought. The paramedics are very much in emergency services mode, and are touching me, and my daughter, and asking all their rapid fire questions. I'm being polite, and letting them do their thing, and waiting for them to leave. But no, they wanted to take us to the emergency room. They thought they were going to strap me to a gurney and carry me out to the ambulance. What? The fuck you are! But my mom says OMG, and my husband says OMG and I say fine, I'll go, but I'm walking to the ambulance.

So off we went, and when we got to the hospital they put me in a bed in a big open hallway with no other patients, and an incubator next to the bed where they thought my daughter should be. The nurses were oddly nasty and unhelpful. I couldn't get a glass of water, I couldn't get any help with the big puddle of blood I'm sitting in, and boy were they certain they wanted my baby in the incubator and not my arms. "Do you want your baby to die?!" one yelled at me. No, I said, but I am going to hold my baby --? I couldn't understand what was happening. My mom and my husband were just like, calm down, pH, it's OK, pH. Finally they had a doctor examine me and the baby. We were fine, pending blood test results. I'm out, I said. I want to go home. Calm down, pH, it's OK, pH, just... No. I'm out. The horrible nasty nurses tried to stop me - you would be leaving against medical advice! Ok, then I am. Well, you can leave if you insist, but the baby has to stay. No, we are both leaving. They sent a security guard to try to make me leave the baby at the hospital. Yeah, no. Off we go, I for one still covered in blood.

Got home, and the rest of the day was as magical as your first day with a new baby should be. She was beautiful and I was happy. We slept.

The next morning a social worker came by, and my strange hospital experience was partially explained. The nurses had thought I had given birth as I had because I was whacked out on drugs. This made them angry, apparently, and concerned for my daughter in my care. But the blood test results came back after I left, and showed that had not been the case. The social worker was super nice, and cooed over my kids, and left. I wanted to know, and still want to know, wouldn't a woman who was so far gone as to get whacked out on drugs during her pregnancy need MORE compassion and care and help from the hospital than usual, not less?

Anyway that is my unassisted birth saga, typed entirely with one finger on my phone. Please tell your friend that while the actual labor and delivery part worked out great for me, as everyone else says it might have gone the other way. And it was disruptive and not nice to have to be transported after the birth. Let alone the weird cruelty at the hospital, which I would like to believe was just a fluke. Better someone is with her, if possible -- ideally someone strong enough to be her advocate, which is not how it played out for me.

If there could exist a question I haven't answered in this absurdly long post, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:48 PM on August 3, 2018 [15 favorites]

I’ve lost a baby - 4 days after birth - due to a mismanaged labour. This was in a hospital. The pain of loss for me was and is still, 14 years later, life-changing. My daughter suffered during her short life. Had she lived, she would be very disabled (blind, deaf, unable to swallow.) Had the medical team intervened halfway better she would probably have had less severe injuries but still have some cognitive struggles. Also, I was in bad shape myself after the delivery.

I still have transient feelings of guilt that I should have started yelling earlier, should have insisted on this or that. But I also know that I was failed by professionals around me in multiple ways - layered small errors at the hospital, a freak set of emergencies that prevented the best care. So I have come to relative peace that I had made conservative decisions for the safety of my daughter and ultimately the critical failures weren’t mine. It helps during the anniversary of that week.

There’s no question that there are no guarantees, but I will say that oxygen is really precious. When a baby isn’t getting enough, there is not a lot of time. I am a bit concerned that your friend is looking to induce a labour that will be partly unassisted- that seems like a concerning combination. If you’re local, why don’t you see if you can drive the kids, or your friend?
posted by warriorqueen at 6:34 AM on August 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

My wife showed signs of preeclampsia at 38 weeks, and our midwifery plan was very out.

Our child also had a benign but scary medical condition that required a 10 day NICU stay even though she was full term.

It isn't to scare you, but someone should be with you. Things go fine alot of the time but when it doesn't it's not always noticable until it's to late.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:55 AM on August 4, 2018

(To address one concern several people have had: could be wrong, but I read this as being interested in self-inducing to try to time the labor for a time she wouldn't be alone.)
posted by hippugeek at 11:42 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

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