Signs of Normal Labor
By choice and sometimes by accident, a pregnant guinea pig comes under our care. All pregnancies are risky and breeding is never recommended.
Should complications arise, it is extremely important that you have a veterinarian lined up for emergency care before the actual delivery.
Linda (Kleenmama) has contributed the following article on labor and delivery:
Normal labor should be short and sweet. The whole process from first contraction to last baby can be as short as 15 minutes, and up to 40 minutes depending on how many babies she has.
There should be little or no blood, especially before any babies have been produced. If you see your sow bleeding, more than a tablespoon, dripping blood, or many pieces of bloody bedding with no babies, you are best advised to get to a vet. Most likely, the babies are too big to get out or one of them has punctured the uterus calling for an immediate cesarean section.
The sow will sit very squarely, and make a "hiccupping" type of motion. When she has a contraction, she will kind of hunch up. With a contraction, she will reach under her like she is getting a poop to eat, and pull the baby out. Then she will start to clean off the sac from the face, then the body of the baby.
Sometimes, the babies come so fast that the Mom has no time to tend to each baby. If you are present, and she is still cleaning up a baby and is not tending to the next one, get a clean towel and carefully pick the baby up, take the sac off the baby, and rub it gently to make sure it is breathing. Be especially careful around the newborns eyes, as they are normally wide open, and you can scratch the cornea.
After you dry it off, put it back down beside the Mom.
Try and make sure that the afterbirths have been delivered. There should be one for every baby. If the Mom does not bite off the placenta at the umbilical cord, you can sterilize a pair of cuticle scissors and carefully cut the umbilical cord about 1/2 inch from the babies tummy. Otherwise, he will be dragging the placenta around. If you do not see the birth as it happens, you will most likely not see the placentas, as the Mom will eat the afterbirths and all the bloody wet shavings. I have had sows deliver at night, and by morning you would never know she had babies except there are little pigs in the cage!
If you are present, you can help her out by removing some of the placentas and some of the soiled bedding. She eats those to keep predators from discovering the babies. The afterbirth will be a round flat bloody object ranging in size from a nickel to a quarter.
If you witness any of the signs listed below, get the sow to a cavy knowledgeable vet immediately.
- Sow straining for more than 10 minutes and not producing a baby
- Sow bleeding
- Sow squealing loudly with each contraction
- Sow getting exhausted and just giving up from trying
- No placenta being produced with the babies
- Sow smelling like nail polish remover, or acetone. This can occur from 2 weeks before until 2 weeks after the birth
You might also keep in mind that some first time Mom's are not the greatest. I have had sows that have run to the opposite end of the cage, like they are terrified! But usually, by the second day, they realize that no one else is tending to these little noisy creatures so they might as well do it.
I usually do not interfere. The babies try eating from the very first day, and they are born with enough reserve of energy (usually) to sustain until Mom's instincts kick in. I WILL interfere if she is biting the babies, or attacking them. Keep in mind! Mom's can, and are, very vigorous in cleaning up these babies! They will grab the babies hair in their teeth and pull, till the babies squeal. They will lick and lick till you think she is trying to remove their fur. That is normal. Her instincts are to remove any smell that will lead predators to her babies.
One more thing. NEVER try and pull anything out of the Mom. Sometimes, they prolapse their uterus, and you will need to get to a vet. If you see the baby partway out, and the Mom is making no effort to help it, and you are SURE it is a baby, then you can gently try and help maneuver the baby out.
Moms may continue to spot for up to 4-5 days after delivery, although 1-2 is more normal. If there are large quantities of blood, or gooey bloody stuff after 2-3 days, or the sow is not acting normally, she might have retained a placenta or a baby. You will need to see a vet if this is the case. The new Mom will not act sick. If she is fluffed up, or has any signs of illness, get her to a vet immediately.