Imagine heading off on your commute home, only to be met with the screams of a woman giving birth – that was the reality facing 21-year-old student Hamzah Selim when he went to catch the Tube after lectures.
Selim rushed to the woman, was was standing in “a pool of blood” at Warren Street Station, very far into her labour. The medical student encouraged the woman to sit, as he was concerned about the blood she’d lost. Looking down at that moment, he saw the baby’s head crowning.
“I thought ‘Oh my goodness, they didn’t teach us how to do this — how to give birth on the tube’,” he told the Evening Standard.
The 21-year-old, still in his first year of university, helped deliver the child, then went into “utter panic” when he realised the baby didn’t have a pulse. He tested its reflexes – something he’d learned in a neonatal unit on work placement – and the baby coughed. “It was the best moment of my life,” he said.
He wrapped the little one in his jumper and handed the newborn to its mum, who was in the station with her sister. Paramedics soon arrived, and both mum and baby were taken to hospital.
Selim might have slightly more knowledge on the situation being a medical student, but it begs the question: if a woman was about to give birth in public, would you know how to help?
Registered midwife Lesley Gilchrist, founder of My Expert Midwife, has some advice.
1. Get Someone To Call An Ambulance
“The first thing you’d do is get someone to call an ambulance,” she says. It might be there’s a doctor or midwife nearby who can step in – if that’s the case you’d want to defer to them. But if you’re on your own, you need to take action.
2. Give Them Privacy
If the woman is in a busy place, get other people to screen the area off for a bit of privacy – they could use coats. “The woman probably isn’t going to care about people seeing her, but if there are people trying to film it, you want to avoid videos going up online without her consent,” says Gilchrist.
You should be on the phone to ambulance control, who will ask questions and walk you through it."
3. Use Guidance From Ambulance Control
Gilchrist says the woman will most likely get into the position she needs to – for example, on her hands and knees, or squatting. At this point you should be on the phone to ambulance control still, who will ask questions and walk you through it.
4. Keep The Newborn Baby Warm
If it’s cold or you’re outside, you need to be thinking ahead about how you can keep the newborn warm once it’s been delivered. “The best way to do that is to get baby onto mum’s chest or stomach for skin-to-skin contact,” says Gilchrist. “Dry the baby off and wrap it in something warm.”
5. Stimulate The Baby’s Senses
If the baby isn’t moving, you need to stimulate its senses. “They usually just need a good old rub to wake them up and stimulate them to breathe,” adds Gilchrist.
6. Don’t Cut The Cord
Whatever you do, don’t cut the cord as the baby will still be able to get oxygen through it – save that part for medical staff, who should be with you in a matter of minutes.
“Babies do honestly just come out,” adds Gilchrist. “It’s the afterwards bit that’s the biggest challenge - checking whether they’re breathing or if there’s a loss of blood.”