'My baby is coming out!': What to do in an emergency birth situation


KZN-based taxi driver Nhlonipho Zulu may have had some inclination that he was in for one hell of a ride when his 8-month along pregnant passenger was turned away from a clinic and told to make her way to another medical facility, 30 km away!

The woman had been instructed by Buxedene clinic staff in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal (now under investigation) that she was in fact not in labour, and to make matters worse, refused to call an ambulance, enlisting Zulu's help instead. 

"I was trying to ignore her pleas, and instead get her to hospital," Zulu explained of the incident, adding that on route to hospital the woman "let out a loud cry and said, 'My baby is coming out' She was literally begging me to stop and help her."

Now hailed as a hero, Zulu says that after a lot of panic, pushing and additional support from bystanders he came across along the way, the mother gave birth in his taxi. 

Thankfully, both the woman and her baby made it out of the emergency situation alive and healthy. 

Read the full story here: Hero taxi driver helps woman give birth after nurses turn her away

What would you do if faced with a similar situation?

We reached out to ER24's Emergency Medical Doctor Dr Vernon Wessels, and trained doula Rushka Lee Pedro to share the do's and don'ts of childbirth with us.

Here's what they advised: 

After calling for an ambulance, what should a bystander do in a case like the above where a woman is seconds away from giving birth?

Dr Vernon Wessels says: 

Childbirth is a normal occurrence and in the majority of cases will progress uncomplicated; however, the experience remains daunting to the mother to be, especially if it is her first child.

Recommended actions would be:

  • To provide her with as much privacy as possible (if in a building, move to a room and request unnecessary bystanders to rather wait outside. In the case of a vehicle, place her on the back seat and ask some bystanders to protect her from people peering through the windows).
  • If the water has already broken or she complains of feeling the baby move down, she should be placed on her back with her knees bent and expose the genital area (perineum).
  • If possible, wash your hands or don gloves.

In most cases, childbirth will progress naturally, and the bystander need only support the process by gently supporting the baby as the delivery progresses.

Doula Rushka Lee Pedro says: 

Besides trying to keep a VERY stressful situation calm, try and keep the mother as comfortable as possible using blankets or pillows. 

The best thing to do is to call the emergency helpline (10111, and see more numbers below) and have the operator talk you through on what to do. 

Also, have someone around you try to seek immediate help. If you're in a shopping mall for example, have them make an announcement asking if there is a medical professional in the area.

What about the umbilical cord? 

Dr Wessels says: 

In natural childbirth, the blood vessels in the cord will usually contract and therefore cutting of the cord can be delayed until professional help arrives.

If the cord is going to be cut, the cut should be made at least a hand width (4 fingers) away from the baby's abdomen and the ends tied off with string prior to cutting.

NB: Only cut the cord once the baby has been fully delivered (in some cases professionals may cut earlier for specific reasons).

Doula Pedro says: 

It is not advisable to cut the cord. Without a qualified Obstetrician, you do run a risk of harming the baby.

Once baby is born, the next step is to deliver the afterbirth or placenta. This needs to be kept, in a towel or plastic bag, so that a medical professional can check that it is still intact and nothing was left behind. 

Is there anything a bystander should definitely not do in an emergency birth situation?

While recounting his story, Nhlonipho Zulu, the KZN taxi driver, said that after a few rounds of pushing and still no baby, the woman had requested he use a knife to "cut her, so that the baby could come out." 

Dr Wessels strongly urges bystanders never to do this. 

"Unless one is familiar with the procedure of episiotomy, it is not recommended to be done as the cause for the baby not delivering may not be resolved through this."

Doula Pedro seconds his advice, adding that in this instance, a bystander "runs the risk of the mother haemorrhaging (bleeding out) and ultimately risks the life of the unborn baby." 

She also warns against the use of pain medication during this time. 

After the birth

Dr Wessels says:

Once fully delivered, the baby can be dried and placed on the mother's chest and covered.

If possible, give the baby the opportunity to suckle on the mother's breast as this stimulates contraction of the uterus, which assists in the delivery of the placenta and preventing excessive bleeding.

Doula Pedro says: 

Once the baby is born, please keep in mind that babies are very slippery and wet and may get quite cold, so: 

  • Immediately wrap the baby in a blanket.
  • Make sure the baby is breathing, and nothing is blocking the air passages (nose and mouth).
  • If the baby is not breathing immediately, hold the legs slightly elevated (NOT upside down) to try help baby along.
  • If the baby is still not breathing, lay the baby down on the blanket and gently rub the baby's chest to stimulate the breathing action.
  • As soon as you can, let baby lay on mom's chest, skin-to-skin, until paramedics arrive on the scene.
  • Don't forget to keep mom warm as well.

Emergency numbers 


National emergency police response  - 10111

National emergency response (if calling from a cellphone) - 112

Ambulance/Firefighters - 10177 


ER24 - 084 124

Netcare 082 911

Have you ever found yourself in an emergency birth situation? Tell us your story. 

Chat back:

Share your story with Parent24. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24