Under normal circumstances, news of an expectant mother glowing with the radiance of pregnancy is a joyous occasion, typically marked with celebration, tears of happiness, and mailed birth announcements. However, when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan, dealing with pregnancy and childbirth is a pressing and stressful situation.
In a long-term survival scenario, where society is unstable and dangerous, access to organized medical care is limited, and any available resources will likely be focused on life-or-death injuries rather than prenatal care, pregnancy becomes a serious challenge and burden.
Moving quickly over rough terrain, sheltering with substandard food and supplies, and enduring physical and emotional stress are not conducive to carrying a baby to full term. Nonetheless, it is not impossible, as millions of babies have been born under primitive conditions.
In the United States, for example, approximately 0.9% or 35,000 births per year occur in the home, with about one-fourth or 8,750 of these being unplanned or unattended, according to various sources.
Parents should be prepared
Without going into extensive detail on the basics of procreation, it’s safe to say that babies can arrive unexpectedly and drastically alter circumstances. In the event that there are women of childbearing age within your group, it’s crucial to be fully prepared by having pregnancy and delivery-related supplies and expertise readily available in your cache of gear.
Gaining proficiency in some fundamental midwifery skills can significantly enhance the likelihood of a safe and successful birth. Consider incorporating Lamaze, a technique aimed at regulating breathing and managing labor pains, into your training sessions.
Along with attending classes, it’s also advisable to include a couple of books in your survival literature that could potentially save a life. Dr. Bonnie U. Gruenberg’s Birth Emergency Skills Training (BEST) is an invaluable resource that covers an extensive range of topics, including pain and bleeding in pregnancy, preterm labor, hypertension, abnormal fetal heart rate, neonatal resuscitation, shock, trauma, syncope, and cardiac arrest. Although comprehensive information on emergency childbirth may be scarce, it remains a critical reference for any pregnant woman with concerns.
Nausea and headaches
Morning sickness is a common occurrence during pregnancy that can cause discomfort and exhaustion. To be prepared, it’s advisable to pack a dozen emesis bags or any small plastic bags that can be used for vomiting, anti-nausea gum made from ginger, and plenty of liquids to keep the expectant mother hydrated.
Dehydration can result in various health issues, including constipation, headaches, preterm delivery, low levels of amniotic fluid, and complications during delivery. One option for combating dehydration, particularly for pregnant women, is DripDrop, a powdered electrolyte mixture that can be easily stored and, when mixed with water, effectively reverses dehydration.
Food and pregnancy
Maintaining a well-stocked food supply is crucial for ensuring a healthy mother and a healthy developing fetus. Certain foods are particularly beneficial for a growing baby:
Eggs contain choline, which promotes brain growth.
Milk and Greek yogurt, with twice the protein of regular yogurt, provide calcium for bone development.
Apples, oranges (which can help prevent vitamin C deficiency and preeclampsia), bananas, and spinach (which prevents anemia during pregnancy) are all excellent sources of fruits and vegetables.
Shelf-stable foods that travel well and store for extended periods, such as freeze-dried fruit, whole-grain crackers, sunflower seeds, granola bars, and powdered milk (with calcium), are also good options.
Beans, lentils, and oats should be included in the diet as well. These foods are high in natural folate, which can help prevent birth defects in the first trimester. Navy beans, tuna, and potatoes are good sources of iodine, a critical nutrient for a developing nervous system.
Emergency obstetrician kit
In the event that your SHTF partner is pregnant, it’s important to prepare a DIY obstetrical kit to ensure you have everything necessary for a safe delivery in one accessible location. This kit should include the following:
Childbirth can be a messy process that can cause discomfort and pain for the mother even weeks after delivery. A portable bidet can help provide soothing water to areas that need it, and natural herbal salves containing ingredients such as St. John’s wort, witch hazel, and calendula can ease hemorrhoids and perineal soreness.
Additionally, caring for the baby’s health and well-being is crucial, so learning infant CPR and methods to treat conditions like jaundice, colic, and hiccups is recommended. Have a large supply of diapers in various sizes, along with clothes suitable for different weather conditions.
While breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants, formula may be necessary if the mother cannot produce milk or does not survive delivery. Make sure to have a good supply of formula and a way to sterilize bottles and nipples.
By updating your bug-out bag with pregnancy and the new baby in mind, you can ensure that all members of your group, including the newest ones, are taken care of in case you need to leave quickly.
Prenatal medicines and alternatives
Eating a balanced diet is crucial for obtaining the necessary nutrients for the mother and the developing baby during pregnancy. However, in cases of emergency situations, where a healthy diet might not be possible, taking prenatal vitamins can be used to supplement any nutritional gaps in the mother’s diet.
While some nutrients like folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium are particularly important for a developing baby, most prenatal vitamins include a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Prenatal vitamins have a shelf life of a couple of years, and even expired ones can still provide some benefit.
It’s recommended to have at least nine months’ worth of prenatal vitamins on hand in your supplies. Some important components to look for in prenatal vitamins include 400 micrograms of folic acid, 400 IU of vitamin D, 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium, 70 mg of vitamin C, 3 mg of thiamine, 2 mg of riboflavin, 20 mg of niacin, 6 mcg of vitamin B12, 10 mg of vitamin E, 15 mg of zinc, 17 mg of iron, and 150 micrograms of iodine.
While increasing the intake of foods that are rich in the nutrients mentioned in this article can help offset some deficiencies, it’s important to note that millions of healthy babies have been born before the development of modern medicine and prenatal nutrition guidelines.
Nine months of stress
In addition to the difficulties of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, pregnancy presents a daunting nine-month journey filled with uncertainties and concerns, culminating in the inevitable delivery, which can be an excruciating experience for the expectant mother, who may also be a loved one.
To prepare for this event, it’s essential to create a safe and stress-free environment and closely monitor the mother-to-be. In areas with mosquitoes, homemade repellents or EPA-approved bug sprays with DEET can help prevent mosquito bites, which can transmit illnesses like Zika. The expectant mother should also cover exposed skin, stay in screened-in areas, and use permethrin-treated clothing to avoid bites.
Encouraging the mother-to-be to sleep on her left side can improve kidney function and increase blood flow to the uterus, and using pillows or cushions to support her legs can improve her comfort. Throughout the pregnancy, it’s important to monitor for common complications such as:
High blood pressure, also known as “hypertension,” occurs when the arteries carrying blood to the organs are narrowed. This condition can slow the growth of the fetus, and common factors for high blood pressure are obesity, family history, and diet. Exercise, diet changes, and stress-reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation can sometimes alleviate the symptoms.
Gestational diabetes, which means there is a build-up of glucose in the body during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that restrict the body’s ability to make insulin. Controlling blood sugar levels during pregnancy, as well as exercise, can help manage this complication.
Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness. It helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, and enhances psychological well-being.
Preterm labor, which is labor that begins before the 37th week. Babies born before this time have an increased risk of health problems because the lungs and brain finish development in the last few weeks. Progesterone is a hormone that can be used to slow or stop preterm labor, and Braxton Hicks contractions can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from signs of preterm labor.
Iron-deficiency anemia, which occurs when pregnant women need more iron than usual due to the increased amount of blood they produce during pregnancy. Symptoms of an iron deficiency include feeling tired or faint, experiencing shortness of breath, and becoming pale.
Severe nausea, which some women experience throughout their pregnancy. Although some nausea and vomiting is normal during the first trimester, severe symptoms can lead to weight loss, reduced appetite, dehydration, and feeling faint.
The big day
On the much-awaited day, for which you had prepared the environment, it’s essential to create a soothing atmosphere. Dim lighting, with a touch of natural fragrances such as wood, plants, flowers, ocean, chocolate, or vanilla, can help to ease the expectant mother during labor. Playing relaxing music with a tempo of 60 to 70 beats per minute may also aid relaxation.
You can provide water and ice for the mother-to-be to chew on and a stress ball to squeeze during contractions. Keep your obstetrical kit ready since, once the uterine sac ruptures, which is commonly referred to as the mother’s water breaking, the birth process will start, which happens in three stages.
In the initial phase of labor, the cervix will begin to dilate, and contractions will start to open the birth canal. It is important to differentiate between true labor contractions and false ones, as true contractions are consistent, does not subside, and can last up to a minute.
Over time, they will increase in frequency and strength. This stage can take up to 15 hours or longer, and during this time, the amniotic sac may break. To determine whether the contractions are genuine, take a short walk, but avoid overexerting the mother, and let nature take its course. Provide water and a light meal if the mother is hungry, and encourage her to remain hydrated.
A helpful technique at this stage is abdominal breathing, where the mother breathes deeply and relaxes her entire body, which relieves tension and muscle strain during contractions and ensures the baby receives enough oxygen. Squatting or lying in a warm bath can also provide relief from contraction discomfort.
The second stage begins when the contractions are about three to four minutes apart and last for approximately one minute each. At this time, the mother may experience vomiting, shaking, feeling hot or cold, and intense back pain as the baby’s head presses against the nerve bundle in her sacrum. Your role is to remain calm and positive, and reassure her that she is doing well and that everything is normal.
When the cervix is fully dilated, it is time for the mother to take a deep breath, hold it, and gently push through the contractions. It is important for her not to push too hard, as this could tire her out before the final pushes. During this stage, which could last up to four hours, the mother should rest between contractions.
As the delivery approaches, you should prepare by suiting up with sterile gloves and apron, and have sterile sheets, towels, and plastic covers ready. Avoid touching the vagina with anything that is not sterile. The mother can change positions during pushing if the contractions are not producing results, such as squatting, lying on her side with her knees apart, or staying up on all fours.
As the baby begins to crown, the mother might feel a burning sensation as the perineum stretches, but she should resist the urge to push hard at this point. With a sterile gauze, support the baby’s head as it emerges. Check the umbilical cord’s location and make sure it is not around the baby’s neck. The baby’s head will be facing down but will turn toward the mother’s thigh as the shoulders appear. If the shoulders are difficult to deliver, have the mother pull her knees up to her chest and push. Usually, after the shoulders, the baby will come right out, but the mother might need one last push to deliver the rest of the baby. If the baby does not fully arrive after a couple of contractions, carefully hook a finger under its shoulder and gently pull.
Have clean towels, pads, and gauze ready to receive the baby because they sometimes come quickly. Hold the baby with its head up so that mucus can drain, and use towels to dry the baby off. Use a bulb syringe to suction any mucus from the baby’s mouth and nose. If the umbilical cord is long enough, lay the baby on the mother’s bare chest and cover both with a warm blanket. Crying is normal and usually encouraged. However, do not try to induce crying by spanking the baby, as this is a myth.
After the baby is born, there are still important tasks to be completed. Wait for 30 seconds before using clamps or sterile shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord in two places approximately 2 inches apart. Then, cut the cord between the clamps or laces using scissors. The remaining cord on the baby will dry and eventually fall off on its own.
According to Dr. Pietrantonio, delayed umbilical cord clamping can benefit both term and preterm infants. In term infants, this practice can increase hemoglobin levels at birth and improve iron stores in the first few months of life, which could have positive effects on developmental outcomes.
Delivery of the placenta, also known as the “afterbirth,” usually takes up to 30 minutes. Do not pull on the cord. A small amount of bleeding and clotting is normal. Monitor the mother for shock and provide appropriate treatment. Massaging the uterus, which is about the size of a grapefruit, through her abdomen and applying an ice pack can help keep it contracted and reduce the risk of hemorrhaging.
Now, it is time to clean up the area.
In conclusion, the birth of a baby is an incredibly transformative and miraculous experience, but it can also be a challenging and intense process. It is important for expecting parents and their support teams to be well-prepared and educated on what to expect during labor and delivery. While each birth experience is unique, understanding the stages of labor and the techniques for managing pain and discomfort can help make the process as smooth and safe as possible. With proper care, attention, and support, both the mother and baby can have a healthy and positive start to their new life together.
This article has been written by James H. Redford MD for Prepper’s Will.
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