There are approximately 3.9 million deliveries in the United States every year. Fortunately, most of these deliveries are appropriately anticipated and occur in the hospital with trained staff. Because deliveries occur so infrequently in the prehospital setting, initial effort should be directed toward getting the mother quickly to a hospital with obstetric and gynecological care. There, well-trained providers can deliver the baby in a controlled setting with adequate equipment, and expertise should complications arise. However, there may not always be enough time to get the mother to the appropriate facility, for this reason, it is crucial for emergency medical service (EMS) providers to be familiar with the appropriate delivery technique. 
A bony ring formed by the sacrum, ischium, ilium, and pubis. The fetus must pass through this ring during delivery, and its size and shape significantly impact the ease of delivery.
A fibromuscular tubular structure that forms the base of the uterus and leads into the vagina. During labor, it dilates and becomes much thinner, to accommodate the passage of the fetus.
A hollow muscular, pear-shaped shaped structure in a females lower abdomen/pelvis. During pregnancy, it houses the fetus, placenta, amniotic sac, and fluid and can grow rapidly to accommodate these enlarging structures. During labor, the uterus generates powerful muscular force that helps expel the baby.
The fundus is the part of the uterus that forms a rounded dome on the top of the uterus. Fundal height is an important measurement for determining the age of the fetus.
Stages of Labor
There are 4 stages of labor. Delivery of the fetus occurs in the second stage of labor.
Indications that it is time for the mother to give birth include a strong urge to push, more intense contractions occurring every 2 to 5 minutes, and the fetal head beginning to crown.
There are not any contraindications to delivery. If the mother's labor is progressing to the point that she is about to deliver, there is little the prehospital provider can do to prevent it. If the EMS provider is close to the hospital and wishes to delay delivery until arrival, discouraging the woman from pushing may delay the delivery for a short while.
For most uncomplicated deliveries minimal equipment is necessary. In the prehospital setting, you should ideally have something to cut and clamp the umbilical cord, and something to dry and stimulate the infant such as a towel. In emergency settings, typical obstetric and gynecological equipment may not be available, but if possible EMS providers should try to have the following items ready:
In prehospital delivery, the EMD provider must make due with the personnel available. Ideally, the EMT or paramedic performing the delivery should have at least one assistant.
Before labor is fully underway, place the mother in the dorsal lithotomy position. To achieve this position, you will have the mother lay on her back (supine) with her feet/lower legs above her hips. Ideally, the patient would be able to rest their heals in stirrups, but these are rarely available. An assistant can instead help hold the mother's legs up. Prior to delivery the vulva/perineum should be cleaned with a sterile saline solution. It is also a good idea to tuck a chuck or sterile towel under the mother's buttock as this with help contain products of conception and make for easier cleanup. 
Second Stage of Labor
Around the time of delivery, the patient will begin experiencing strong contractions around 2 to 4 minutes apart. When the mother is experiencing a contraction, be sure to coach the mother by encouraging her to push for a full 10 seconds, if possible. This process can be quite exhausting for the mother, so generally, the mother is encouraged to push for 3 sets of 10 seconds during a contraction then take a break. Peri-vaginal tears are a common complication of delivery. These occur when the baby's head is forcefully and quickly expelled from the vagina. To prevent lacerations, as the mother is pushing, place one hand on the babies scalp, applying pressure and allowing for a slower and more controlled expulsion of the babies head from the vagina. The other hand can be used to place pressure on the perineum, providing this area with support as this is the most common area for a laceration.
Once the head is delivered, sweep fingers around the baby's neck feeling for a nuchal cord. If you feel the umbilical cord wrapped around the child's neck, you will need to reduce the cord.  At this point, you will need to deliver the shoulders, with the child's head facing the mother's inner thigh, grasp the child's head and pull downward with gentle traction. This will help release the child's anterior shoulder from catching on the mother's boney pelvic rim. Then gently pull upward releasing the posterior shoulder. From here, the passage of the rest of the body should happen quickly and spontaneously, with little effort on your part.
Next, clamp and cut the umbilical cord. There is no rush for the prehospital provider to clamp or deliver the placenta. It is advised to wait at least 30 seconds before clamping the cord; this allows for autotransfusion of some of the placental blood into the fetus. Generally, it is advised that the proximal umbilical clamp is placed approximately 10 centimeters from the child's umbilicus. This provides adequate spare cord to place an umbilical catheter if necessary once the child reaches the hospital if they require neonatal resuscitation. The second clamp should be placed approximately 5 cm apart from the first, this will allow adequate space to safely cut the umbilical cord with a sharp pair of scissors. 
The infant is now free from the mother. If available, use a bulb syringe to suction the child's mouth then nares, and with a clean towel dry and stimulate the infant. As it is unlikely that an ambient warmer will be available in the prehospital setting, skin to skin contact between child and mother is strongly encouraged. This promotes bonding and helps keep the child warm.
Third Stage of Labor
After the baby has been successfully delivered, the placenta must be delivered. This should occur between 5 and 30 minutes after delivery. While waiting for the placenta to deliver, apply gentle traction on the cord. The cord can be quite slippery, so it is best to hold onto the cord with either a needle driver, Kelly forceps, or a hemostat. Applying fundal pressure/uterine massage will stimulate uterine contraction, promoting the placental release and preventing post-partum hemorrhage. The placenta is ready to deliver when the uterus becomes more firm, there is a gush of blood from the vagina, and there is a lengthening of the umbilical cord. These are a consequence of the placenta separating from the uterine wall and beginning its descent.
Slowly increase the amount of traction on the cord until placenta begins to descend. Once the placenta is visible, grab it, continuing to pull downward. Once the placenta is approximately halfway out of the vaginal os, begin to twist the placenta as you continue to pull. This will cause the stringy delicate membranous tail of the placenta to wrap around itself, providing greater structural integrity, preventing retained products of conception. Once the placenta has been delivered, it needs to be inspected for any missings pieces. If the placenta is not intact, the retained products will need to be retrieved to prevent bleeding or later infection.
Shoulder dystocia is one of the most common intrapartum pregnancy complications. It occurs when the width of the fetus's shoulders is too broad to fit through the mother's pelvic outlet, resulting in the fetus becoming lodged in the birth canal. This complication is difficult to anticipate, but risk factors include macrosomia, maternal diabetes, maternal obesity, and fetal postdates. It is important to quickly recognize and treat this complication because prolonged dystocia can result in fetal asphyxiation, clavicle fracture, and brachial plexus injury.
The presence of "turtle sign can identify shoulder dystocia." This phenomenon is where the fetal head pops in and out of the vaginal canal, like a turtle sticking its head out of its shell. This occurs because as the mother pushes, the fetal head is expelled, but because the fetal shoulders are stuck behind the pelvic rim when the mother stops pushing the head gets pulled back into the vaginal canal.
There are several maneuvers to resolve the dystocia. In the McRoberts maneuver, from the lithotomy position, forcefully push the mother's thigh's back onto her abdomen/chest, resulting in hyperflexion at the hips. This moves the pubic symphysis up and back allowing more room for the passage of the anterior shoulder. If this is not sufficient, with the fist, one can apply downward suprapubic pressure. In this location, the EMS provider's fist should be directly over the anterior shoulder, thus pushing it down and freeing it from obstruction.
Umbilical Cord Prolapse
Cord prolapse is when during delivery, a loop of the umbilical cord begins to stick out past the fetus. This usually occurs when the body of the fetus does not fill the birth canal. Thus, there is room for the umbilical cord to slip out. This is concerning because as the delivery progresses the body of the fetus can compress the cord, inhibiting oxygenated blood from getting to the baby. These patients should be taken to a facility capable of performing the cesarian section. If umbilical prolapse occurs, instruct the mother to stop pushing, and place the mother in Trendelenburg position. Attempt to lift the presenting fetal part (usually the head) off of the umbilicus and hold it up until patient care can be handed off at the hospital.
Postpartum hemorrhage is when the mother loses more than 500 mL of blood after vaginal delivery of the baby. It is one of the main causes of pregnancy-related maternal death worldwide. There are many causes of postpartum hemorrhage, and much of the treatment involves getting the patient to a hospital with sufficient OB/GYN resources, but there are a number of things the prehospital provider can do to help in this situation. Just as if this was a hemorrhage from trauma, it is important for prehospital personnel to take the patients vitals, establish IV access, and administer fluids if necessary.
The most common cause of postpartum hemorrhage is uterine atony. Normally, the uterus begins to contract after the baby has been successfully delivered spontaneously. Thus, the myometrium effectively clamps down on the spiral arteries preventing further blood loss. Vigorous massage of the uterine fundus can be implemented to help initiate uterine contraction. If this is insufficient, bimanual uterine massage can be done by placing one hand in the vagina and the other on the abdomen over the fundus and compressing the uterus between the hands.
While prehospital deliveries are uncommon procedures for EMT and paramedics, it is important to be familiar with the proper delivery technique. This will help the provider remain calm during the procedure. For the most part, uncomplicated deliveries will happen with little effort. Key aspects of the delivery are controlling the expulsion of the fetal head and delivery of the anterior shoulder. Quickly place the baby on the mother's chest, because skin to skin contact will prevent fetal hypothermia. EMS providers should also be able to troubleshoot some of the more common pregnancy complications such as shoulder dystocia, umbilical cord prolapse, and post-partum hemorrhage.
Because deliveries occur so infrequently in the prehospital setting, initial effort should be directed toward getting the mother quickly to a hospital with obstetric and gynecological care. There, well-trained providers can deliver the baby in a controlled setting with adequate equipment, and expertise should complications arise. However, there may not always be enough time to get the mother to the appropriate facility, for this reason, it is crucial for emergency medical service (EMS) providers to be familiar with the appropriate delivery technique.  Only EMS staff trained in obstetrics should attempt delivery in the field; the risk of litigation is high is a complication was to occur. Thus, the aim should always be to deliver the mother to the nearest hospital. Anecdotal reports suggest that EMS delivery of infants is safe and relatively free of complications in most cases. (Level V)
We are looking for contributors to author, edit, and peer review our vast library of review articles and multiple choice questions. In as little as 2-3 hours you can make a significant contribution to your specialty. In return for a small amount of your time, you will receive free access to all content and you will be published as an author or editor in eBooks, apps, online CME/CE activities, and an online Learning Management System for students, teachers, and program directors that allows access to review materials in over 500 specialties.
This is an academic project designed to provide inexpensive peer-reviewed Apps, eBooks, and very soon an online CME/CE system to help students identify weaknesses and improve knowledge. We would like you to consider being an author or editor. Please click here to learn more. Thank you for you for your interest, the StatPearls Publishing Editorial Team.
Click Your Answer Below
Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?
Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.
Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.
|Gherman RB,Chauhan S,Ouzounian JG,Lerner H,Gonik B,Goodwin TM, Shoulder dystocia: the unpreventable obstetric emergency with empiric management guidelines. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 2006 Sep [PubMed]|
|Beall MH,Spong C,McKay J,Ross MG, Objective definition of shoulder dystocia: a prospective evaluation. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 1998 Oct [PubMed]|
|Spong CY,Beall M,Rodrigues D,Ross MG, An objective definition of shoulder dystocia: prolonged head-to-body delivery intervals and/or the use of ancillary obstetric maneuvers. Obstetrics and gynecology. 1995 Sep [PubMed]|
|Zhang J,Landy HJ,Branch DW,Burkman R,Haberman S,Gregory KD,Hatjis CG,Ramirez MM,Bailit JL,Gonzalez-Quintero VH,Hibbard JU,Hoffman MK,Kominiarek M,Learman LA,Van Veldhuisen P,Troendle J,Reddy UM, Contemporary patterns of spontaneous labor with normal neonatal outcomes. Obstetrics and gynecology. 2010 Dec [PubMed]|
|Albers LL,Sedler KD,Bedrick EJ,Teaf D,Peralta P, Midwifery care measures in the second stage of labor and reduction of genital tract trauma at birth: a randomized trial. Journal of midwifery [PubMed]|
|Aasheim V,Nilsen ABV,Reinar LM,Lukasse M, Perineal techniques during the second stage of labour for reducing perineal trauma. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2017 Jun 13 [PubMed]|
|Gupta JK,Sood A,Hofmeyr GJ,Vogel JP, Position in the second stage of labour for women without epidural anaesthesia. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2017 May 25 [PubMed]|
|Le Ray C,Fraser W,Rozenberg P,Langer B,Subtil D,Goffinet F, Duration of passive and active phases of the second stage of labour and risk of severe postpartum haemorrhage in low-risk nulliparous women. European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. 2011 Oct [PubMed]|
|Josephsen JB,Kemp J,Elbabaa SK,Al-Hosni M, Life-threatening neonatal epidural hematoma caused by precipitous vaginal delivery. The American journal of case reports. 2015 Jan 30 [PubMed]|
|Mercer JS,Skovgaard RL,Peareara-Eaves J,Bowman TA, Nuchal cord management and nurse-midwifery practice. Journal of midwifery & women's health. 2005 Sep-Oct [PubMed]|
|Fogarty M,Osborn DA,Askie L,Seidler AL,Hunter K,Lui K,Simes J,Tarnow-Mordi W, Delayed vs early umbilical cord clamping for preterm infants: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 2018 Jan [PubMed]|
|Tolcher MC,El-Nashar SA,Famuyide AO, Association of the Duration of Active Pushing With Obstetric Outcomes. Obstetrics and gynecology. 2016 Aug [PubMed]|
|Dombrowski MP,Bottoms SF,Saleh AA,Hurd WW,Romero R, Third stage of labor: analysis of duration and clinical practice. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 1995 Apr [PubMed]|
|Culliney EM,Williams PM, Controlled Cord Traction During the Third Stage of Labor. American family physician. 2016 Mar 1 [PubMed]|
|Gülmezoglu AM,Lumbiganon P,Landoulsi S,Widmer M,Abdel-Aleem H,Festin M,Carroli G,Qureshi Z,Souza JP,Bergel E,Piaggio G,Goudar SS,Yeh J,Armbruster D,Singata M,Pelaez-Crisologo C,Althabe F,Sekweyama P,Hofmeyr J,Stanton ME,Derman R,Elbourne D, Active management of the third stage of labour with and without controlled cord traction: a randomised, controlled, non-inferiority trial. Lancet (London, England). 2012 May 5 [PubMed]|
|Mercado J,Brea I,Mendez B,Quinones H,Rodriguez D, Critical obstetric and gynecologic procedures in the emergency department. Emergency medicine clinics of North America. 2013 Feb [PubMed]|
|Knight M,Callaghan WM,Berg C,Alexander S,Bouvier-Colle MH,Ford JB,Joseph KS,Lewis G,Liston RM,Roberts CL,Oats J,Walker J, Trends in postpartum hemorrhage in high resource countries: a review and recommendations from the International Postpartum Hemorrhage Collaborative Group. BMC pregnancy and childbirth. 2009 Nov 27 [PubMed]|
|Piaggio G,Carvalho JF,Althabe F, Prevention of postpartum haemorrhage: a distributional approach for analysis. Reproductive health. 2018 Jun 22 [PubMed]|
|Sheldon WR,Blum J,Vogel JP,Souza JP,Gülmezoglu AM,Winikoff B, Postpartum haemorrhage management, risks, and maternal outcomes: findings from the World Health Organization Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health. BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology. 2014 Mar [PubMed]|
|Verdile VP,Tutsock G,Paris PM,Kennedy RA, Out-of-hospital deliveries: a five-year experience. Prehospital and disaster medicine. 1995 Jan-Mar; [PubMed]|
The intent of StatPearls is to provide practice questions and explanations to assist you in identifying and resolving knowledge deficits. These questions and explanations are not intended to be a source of the knowledge base of all of medicine, nor is it intended to be a board or certification review of EMS-Community Paramedic. The authors or editors do not warrant the information is complete or accurate. The reader is encouraged to verify each answer and explanation in several references. All drug indications and dosages should be verified before administration.
StatPearls offers the most comprehensive database of free multiple-choice questions with explanations and short review chapters ever developed. This system helps physicians, medical students, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals identify education deficits and learn new concepts. StatPearls is not a board or certification review system for EMS-Community Paramedic, it is a learning system that you can use to help improve your knowledge base of medicine for life-long learning. StatPearls will help you identify your weaknesses so that when you are ready to study for a board or certification exam in EMS-Community Paramedic, you will already be prepared.
Our content is updated continuously through a multi-step peer review process that will help you be prepared and review for a thorough knowledge of EMS-Community Paramedic. When it is time for the EMS-Community Paramedic board and certification exam, you will already be ready. Besides online study quizzes, we also publish our peer-reviewed content in eBooks and mobile Apps. We also offer inexpensive CME/CE, so our content can be used to attain education credits while you study EMS-Community Paramedic.