Although uncommon, labor and birth can occur unexpectedly fast, resulting in an unplanned home birth or a birth on the way to the hospital. Sudden birth is more likely to happen in second and subsequent labors or if you've had a previous sudden birth.
If you're alone at home
Try to stay calm and phone the emergency services for an ambulance. Also ask them to contact your doctor, whose number should be in your address book. Try to contact a friend, relative, or a neighbor who can help. If someone is with you, ask him or her to contact the ambulance and doctor.
Wash your hands and gather newspapers, clean towels, or clean clothing, or if you have an assistant ask him or her to prepare in this way. If there is time, the floor or bed should be covered with a plastic sheet, open trash bags, or newspapers and have a plastic bowl for the amniotic fluid and blood.
If you have an urge to push, breathe slowly; panting and blowing can help. Sit or kneel on the floor or your bed on top of a clean towel so that your baby doesn't fall onto a hard surface. Your water may break and an assistant can watch for a sudden bulging of the perineum and for your baby's head to appear, at which point you can push.
Once the head is delivered, you will feel another contraction and can push the body out. You may be able do this alone, or an assistant can put his or her hands either side of the head and apply gentle pressure. If your baby is born in the amniotic bag, this can be punctured with fingers; the baby's face will need wiping so that the airway is clear. Try to record the time of birth.
Give your baby immediate skin-to-skin contact to keep him warm; then dry him and wrap him in a towel or blanket. Putting him to your breast stimulates contractions to deliver the placenta. An assistant can watch for a gush of blood or lengthening of the cord, a sign that the placenta has come away. Put the placenta in a towel in a bowl to be checked. Clamp the cord with string or a shoe lace; the doctor or paramedic will cut it when he or she arrives.
If you're in a car
If you feel an urge to push, your partner should pull over and put the hazard lights on. If your baby is born in the car, your partner can put him on your belly for warmth. If you have towels, dry your baby, wrap him in a clean towel, and call an ambulance.