Midwife's hand inside birth canal for 90 minutes saves baby's life

Naomi Facey with husband Neil Bolton and baby Emilia
Naomi Facey with husband Neil Bolton and baby Emilia Photo: Supplied

Baby Emelia's arrival into the world wasn't exactly smooth sailing.

First there was the rare condition that affected her umbilical cord, threatening her only oxygen supply. There was also the monumental response by emergency services, the local community and medical personnel. Then there was the midwife's extreme life saving measures - inserting her hand into the mother's birth canal to hold the baby safe for 90 minutes.

The experience was then topped off by an emergency caesarean section.

Now, three weeks later first-time-mother Naomi Facey and baby Emelia are doing well despite the "dramatic" experience.

Facey, who manages Top 10 Holiday park in the New Zealand town of Russell with husband Neil Bolton, said it all started when she felt her waters break on the evening of March 19.

Soon after, she felt her umbilical cord hanging out so she got in touch with her midwife - who told her to get "head down, bum up" to get the baby into a better position.

The midwife, Sue Bree, arrived shortly after - having jumped on board an about-to-depart ferry from Opua - and inserted her hand into Facey's birth canal to feel for a pulse and keep the pressure off the cord.

"[it wasn't] as uncomfortable as it sounds," said Facey with a laugh. "My shoulders hurt more, from holding my weight up."

The prolapsed cord - which occurs in less than 1 per cent of pregnancies - can starve the unborn baby of oxygen leading to death if action isn't immediately taken.

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That meant the couple's original plans of taking the ferry and driving 75km to Whangarei Hospital when the birth as imminent were no longer possible.

Instead, Facey remained on all fours until help arrived in the form of the Fire Service, St John Ambulance, and the Northland Rescue Helicopter.

The ambulance transported her to a nearby field which fire crews had set up for the helicopter's landing.

She was then stretchered across the grass into the helicopter - all with the midwife's hand still inside her.

"It was the most intense hour and a half ever, but you just have to do what you have to do."

She was flown to Whangerei Hospital for the emergency procedure and healthy baby Emelia was born weighing 3.66kg - despite being 2.5 weeks early.

"The jaw ache that I still had two days after is a testament to how much I must have been clenching my jaw at the time."

She said she didn't realise how serious it was until she thought about it afterwards.

"It was very likely that we could have lost her, or at the very least she could have suffered serious brain damage.

"It was serendipitous, all the pieces all fell into place in a way that was very fortunate really - the car ferry happened to be there when Sue needed it to be and the chopper was moments away from not being available for us."

She said, three weeks down the track, that she was "reasonably recovered" from the caesarean operation and baby Emelia was doing "really well", and was in the midst of a growth spurt.

"We're so grateful to all those that helped deliver Emelia and we're blown away by the community for all their well wishes."

- Stuff