pregnancy

Emma gave birth without knowing it. After, she learned she'd had an “unconscious birth”.

It’s very rare, but it happens: a woman going through labour and delivering a baby while unconscious.

It happened to UK mum Emma Mynors. She was 29 weeks pregnant with her daughter Amy when she developed pneumonia and was admitted to hospital.

“I got put in an induced coma,” she tells Mamamia. “I suffered two strokes due to the strain my body was under.”

After Mynors had been in a coma for two weeks, an observant nurse at the hospital spotted a change in her.

“One of them noticed that my stomach was flatter than normal, looked under the sheets and noticed one of Amy’s arms and her head was out.”

Amy was born, weighing a tiny 1.5kg. It was another two weeks before Mynors regained consciousness. She had no memory of giving birth.

“I was confused that all the intensive care nurses kept congratulating me,” she remembers. “I couldn’t talk due to a tracheotomy I had.

“I looked around and saw a photo of a baby, not knowing who it was.”

Mynors has recovered, although she suffers ongoing weakness in her left side, due to the strokes. As for Amy, she’s now a healthy five-year-old.

“She is our little miracle,” Mynors says.

“If it wasn’t for that one nurse who noticed my flattish stomach, I dread to think what would have happened.”

Melbourne obstetrician Dr Philippa Costley tells Mamamia it’s “extremely rare” to deliver a baby while unconscious. She says she’s only had it happen once.

“It was a drug-affected delivery,” she remembers.

However, she points out that it was common in the early 20th century, when women would be given chloroform for pain relief.

Listen: Hello Bump, on everything you ever need to know about childbirth. (Post continues after audio.)

“They would inhale the chloroform and it would knock them out and they would have their babies.”

That raises the question. If a woman can go through labour and deliver a baby while unconscious, is that an option? If a mum-to-be is terrified of how painful childbirth is going to be, can she request a general anaesthetic – and then have a vaginal delivery, not a caesarean?

Dr Costley says no. “A general anaesthetic while pregnant is not particularly safe,” she explains. ”There’s quite a high risk of what we call aspiration, or the contents of your stomach coming up.”

The baby can also be affected by the general anaesthetic.

“Sometimes they’re born sleepy, but generally, with some support with their breathing, that recovers pretty quickly.”

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Dr Costley says an epidural is a much better option for women.

“It’s safer, and although they’re awake and aware, we can make them pain-free.”

Still, the fact that our bodies can give birth without any conscious effort from us is pretty incredible.

Dr Philippa Costley and Clinical psychologist and doula, Mia Scotland have had some experience with unconscious birth. (Image: Linkedin)

Clinical psychologist, birth doula and hypnobirthing practitioner Mia Scotland says birthing is done without the conscious effort of the woman in labour.

The reasons that you don't birth your baby, your body does, she says is due to the following reasons:

1. "Onset of labour, contractions and birth, are non-voluntary physiological phenomena. You can't control that.

2. "Labour and birth can and does happen to completely unconscious women.

3. "Your body pushes the baby out. If you're not having a (involuntary) contraction, no amount of voluntary"pushing" will get your baby out.

4. "It's a bit like digesting your food, or going to sleep, orgasming. You can't make any of those happen by "trying" or "willing" it to happen. In fact, the more you try, the less likely they are to happen."

Mynors says she can’t believe this is what happened to her.

“I’m really amazed and surprised. I never knew it was possible to give birth while in a coma and both come out of it.”

Would you prefer to be unconscious when you give birth?

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