Childbirth usually takes several hours. Although in exceptional cases a baby arrives suddenly before it is possible to move the mother to hospital.

It is rare for this to happen with a mother’s first baby because the birth canal needs to undergo a great deal of stretching and adaptation to allow the baby’s head to move down from the womb.

Symptoms and signs – Not all may be present

  • lower abdominal cramp-like pains at regular intervals 
  • an urge to push down when the baby is ready to be born 
  • a feeling of excitement mixed with anxiety 

How you can help

1.    Assist the mother into a suitable position

  • Assist her to lie down on a bed, or the floor, if delivery seems to be imminent. 
  • Place a piece of plastic covered by old sheets or towels under the mother to protect the bed or floor. 
  • Reassure the mother that help is coming and that you will stay with her. 

Call 111 for an ambulance and a midwife, if there is one nearby.

Childbirth complications

There are a number of problems that can occur during childbirth and very little that a first aider can do except stay with the mother and keep her calm until an ambulance arrives.

How you can help

1.    Seek medical assistance urgently

Call 111 for an ambulance, or contact a local doctor or midwife for help. 

  • Keep the mother at rest and lying down. Reassure her but tell her to try to stop pushing with each contraction. Ask the mother to pant hard with each contraction to slow the baby’s progress down the birth canal.
  • Place some padding under her right hip and buttock to move the baby off her deep veins and assist with the return of blood to her heart.



If a mother loses her baby before the 28th week of pregnancy, it is known as a miscarriage. This can be a serious medical emergency due to the sudden blood loss, but also causes an emotional stress for the mother.

Symptoms and signs – Not all may be present

  • heavy vaginal bleeding which may include clotting
  • severe cramp-like pains in the lower abdomen
  • pale, cold and clammy skin

How you can help

1.    Assist the patient to rest in the most comfortable position for her

Call 111 for an ambulance.

2.    Observe the patient closely 

  • While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, observe the patient closely for any change in condition. 
  • Moisten the patient’s lips if they are dry, but avoid giving any food or fluids because an anaesthetic is likely to be needed on arrival in hospital. 
  • Reassure the patient until the ambulance arrives.

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