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When to call 911


If you are in labor, don’t call 911.


Call 911 if you have been in a traffic accident, or had a heart attack,  electrical mishap, or freak accident.  Ambulance personnel are very good at transporting people who are unconscious or severely injured.


Ambulance personnel, and even emergency room doctors and nurses are rarely experienced in newborn care, and newborns require special care. Certain procedures that are fine to perform on an older child, or sometimes even on an older baby can severely hurt a newborn.   For example, an emergency doctor or paramedic who knows how to intubate an adult,  and uses basically the same procedure on your baby, will probably injure him or her for life.  (Read more…)


Birth is not an emergency, but a normal, healthy physiological process.  Panic and ignorance can disrupt and damage this process.  Car travel can stop labor, and sometimes interrupting labor is harmful to your baby.


A precipitous (very fast) birth poses no special risk to the baby.  If your case is special and unusual, an emergency worker will not have the specialized skills to help.  If your case is not special, you may want help, but you do not need help.  If you call 911, or enter a random emergency room, you are taking a big chance.  As one pregnant obstetrician told me:

I’d walk to the hospital before I would call an ambulance.  Better to give birth on the sidewalk.  Those guys are clueless, and besides they charge way too much.


Remember, if your case is special, emergency workers are unlikely to be able to help.  As Gregory White, MD wrote in his classic, Emergency Childbirth:

The fact is that more breech babies die of injuries received at the hands of their would-be rescuers than die of smothering.


If you start labor alone, remind yourself that millions of women have calmly given birth all by themselves throughout time and are still doing it, all across the world, even right now.  It might help you to  read some birth stories from Laura Shanley’s site about unassisted birth.


If you absolutely want to be accompanied by someone experienced, you need a better back-up plan than “call 911.”


If somehow you end up giving birth with emergency personnel around you, try your best to convince them:

  • To keep you and the baby together, skin-to-skin
  • Not to intubate the baby
  • Not to cut the cord
  • To call someone more experienced
  • To speak quietly and calmly