The Assisted Delivery
Over the years I have become quite good at sorting out kids tangled up inside the womb and successfully delivering them. There’s no way to develop competence at assisting during difficult deliveries, though, without having to go through some very stressful and challenging times. I learned early, when I still needed a vet’s help during particularly difficult deliveries (dystocia is the proper term), that the essential attitude to cultivate for success is a combination of patience and persistence. If you are lucky enough to have a goat mentor who will let you be present during deliveries then you will gain a lot of useful knowledge. That same mentor might be willing to walk you through the steps over the phone. When I teach our “Goat Academy” here at Pholia Farm, I try to time it for a week when several does are due to kid just for that opportunity. And hopefully this book can help you learn the skills needed to assist during deliveries.
I always err on the side of helping a doe earlier in the process, rather than regretting later. My perspective is that the animal is only in this predicament due to my choices, so she deserves my help. Another part of my viewpoint is the potential to decide to stop breeding a doe for good if difficult deliveries are her norm.
Seven Things to Remember During a Tough Delivery
- Keep calm!
- Take your time. Move methodically and slowly inside the doe.
- Give the doe and yourself a break every 5 to 10 minutes.
- If the delivery requires intervention that increases the doe’s pain to the point of causing her extreme distress, administer pain medication (Banamine, which requires a vet’s prescription, is a good choice.)
- Medicate yourself! Have a helper bring you a quick shot of tea or even whiskey.
- Give the doe a dose of high-potency oral nutritional supplement during the delivery, between kids or pushes, and when delivery is over.
- Keep calm!
When a doe is in labor and you’ve decided that further manual exploration is necessary, first take a few moments to gather your
supplies—which hopefully will all be near at hand already. Fill a pail with a warm water and Betadine wash solution (follow the dilution instruction on the bottle). Be sure your fingernails are trimmed, remove any rings or bracelets, and put on gloves. You can use long OB gloves if you like. A trick I learned (from that patient vet I mentioned earlier) that leaves your fingers more agile than using an OB glove alone is to cut the fingers out of a long OB glove, put a nitrile glove on your hand first, and then put on the fingerless long glove over it. It’s preferable to use your dominant hand for exploring the doe. This may mean you have to roll her over. If it’s not possible to do this, you can use your non-dominant hand, but it will feel more awkward. If the doe is standing, ask an assistant to try to hold her head to keep her still.
Wash the doe’s backside with a bit of the warm Betadine solution, then dip your gloved hand and forearm in the solution and shake it off. Dispense a generous amount of lubricant, either gel or powder, on your gloved fingers. You don’t need to squeeze it all over your hand; it will spread as you enter the doe. Repeat this process whenever you reenter the doe.
With your other hand, lift her tail. Bunch your gloved fingers together, holding them straight, with your thumb tight to your palm, and then insert the fingers into the vagina. The doe is likely to begin pushing as the pressure of your hand in her pelvic canal stimulates that response. You will have to push against it. Slowly but steadily continue to move your fingers forward, then your hand. As you move forward, note the tightness of her pelvis and the dilation of the cervix. When the cervix is fully dilated you might find that as your hand goes into the vagina, the cervix will feel like a funnel, with the small end toward the uterus. You will feel the rings of the cervix and maybe even feel parts of a kid through the cervical tissue. Do not mistake the tissue of the cervix for an amniotic sac and try to push through it! Instead, continue straight forward until you find the final cervical ring. Then your hand will enter the uterus. Sometimes the body of the uterus will feel large and spacious; other times it will be small and tight, with the kids positioned in the horns.
In this collection of illustrations you will see many of the possible presentations of kids—but not all of them! The possible combinations of presentation that can occur is huge. Because
the scenarios can be quite complicated and because you will likely be anxious in the moment when a delivery is taking place, I recommend you take the time to study all the illustrations below well before kidding season arrives. Imagine each one, and mime the movements you would make with your hands to assist in the delivery. It can make a big difference should an emergency occur.
Other possible presentations not shown here include a normal front presentation, but with one front leg crossed over the neck; two twins presenting normally, but both trying to exit the uterus at the same time, and so blocking each other’s way; a kid presenting stifle joint first (this is so hard to imagine, even though I’ve seen it occur, I couldn’t figure out how to draw it!); and back pressed against the cervix. And there are many more; too many for me to describe here.
Guide to Common Kid Presentation Illustrations
(Note, illustrations show the pelvis as transparent so that you can view the uterus and kids. In reality the kid passes through the pelvic outlet between both sides of the pelvis)
Presentation 1: Normal presentation of twins, one in each horn of the uterus, before labor begins.
Presentation 2: Normal presentation of twins, delivery of twin in right horn, front feet and head first. No assistance should be needed.
Presentation 3: One front leg and head first, one front leg back. Usually no assistance is necessary. If help is needed, apply gentle pulling pressure to the presented front leg and around the kid’s skull. If this presentation is determined before the kid’s head clears the pelvis, the front leg that is back can be repositioned.
Presentation 4: Normal presentation, back legs first.
Presentation 5: When a small kid presents butt first and the back legs are forward, no assistance is usually needed. But in this instance, two more kids are present. The one in the left horn is a larger kid, with front legs and head first. In this case, the larger kid may block the exit of the smaller, backward kid. You can gently push the smaller kid farther back into the uterus and deliver the larger, normal-presentation kid first if needed. The last kid is upside down in the right horn. As it is pushed by the contractions up toward the cervix, it may rotate on its own so that it isn’t upside down. If not, you may need to gently rotate its head and front legs before the kid can clear the pelvis and be delivered.
Presentation 6: Butt-first presentation with hocks bent, causing the kid to lodge behind the pelvis. To assist, reach in and gently push the kid toward the mom’s head. Then follow each back leg down to the hock, continuing to push the kid back in as each contraction pushes it toward you, and hook the lower legs up and toward the cervix. Once they are freed of being caught behind the pelvis, they will quickly extend backward into the vagina and the kid can be easily delivered.
Presentation 7: This kid is almost in a normal presentation of head and front feet, but its elbows are back just enough to cause the shoulder blades to broaden and become wedged in the pelvis. This is sometimes called elbow lock. It can happen with the kid a bit farther out, too. When it does, push one leg backward a bit and pull gently on the other leg and the head.
Presentation 8: In this drawing twins are presenting with the left twin in a normal, back-legs-first presentation, but the larger twin in the right horn is head first with the front legs back and
is blocking the cervix. In this case, the doe may not even dilate fully or perhaps not try to push. When you reach in, you will feel the larger kid’s head and perhaps the back feet of the other kid. If you aren’t sure if they are back feet and even which kid those feet belong to, follow the neck of the larger kid to its shoulder then down to the front legs. Then you have two options: You can push the bigger kid back in a bit and hook up and bring forward its front legs, one at a time, and deliver it first; or you can push it down into the horn and deliver the other kid first.
Presentation 9: In this common presentation the front feet are first, but the kid’s head is down. Help is usually required. Reach in and gently push the dome of the head back in toward the mom’s head until you can reach under its chin and lift the muzzle up between its front legs. While you do this, you may “lose” a front leg and have to hook it back up and make sure it stays in place as the kid moves into the birth canal. Less common but with a similar presentation is front feet with the head turned to the side. In that case, when you reach in you will feel the neck at the throat. Push on the neck to move the kid back in a bit, then follow the neck to the head and swing it around. When it has been bent down or sideways, it will want to move back to that position, so keep your hand on the dome of the head until it moves into the vagina.
Presentation 10: The first kid presenting has its head down and its front feet back. A triplet in the left horn is presenting normally with front feet and head, and a triplet in the right horn, below the first kid, is presenting normally, but backward. Because the first kid is blocking the cervix with its forehead, the doe may not have fully dilated or may not be pushing. When you reach in, you will feel the forehead of the first kid, but you will also likely feel the front feet of the kid on the left and maybe even the back feet of the other kid on the right. You’re likely to want to first raise the head of the kid, but be sure you determine which kid’s feet belong to that head! Once the kid that has been blocking the exit has been delivered, the other two shouldn’t need assistance if the doe is still strong and pushing.
Presentation 11: When the cervix hasn’t fully dilated it might feel like a funnel when you palpate it. You will feel the other rings as your hand moves toward the uterus. The last ring will be the smallest. Because of the funnel-like form, you might feel the kid through the cervical tissue. Don’t mistake that tissue for an amniotic sac and try to break through it to reach the kid!
(All of the above illustrations will be found in full resolution in the book along with a complete guide to Breeding, Pregnancy, and Delivery in Chapter 8)
Illustrations copyright © Gianaclis Caldwell 2017