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Instant Birth: Just Add Labor!
aka: Instant Birth Just Add Water

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Val: It always seems more urgent on T.V.
Marla: That's because wetting your pants then driving calmly to the hospital doesn't make for good drama.

A fictional inaccuracy about pregnancy. The moment a pregnant woman's water breaks, FAZAM! Her vagina is now her baby's personal waterslide, and she's going to give birth right there, right then. Bonus points if 'right there' is somewhere extremely cramped, uncomfortable or inaccessible (say, an elevator) and 'right then' is precisely when it will be least convenient for her or any other bystanders (such as when the aforementioned elevator has stopped working). And don't expect Baby to wait for the situation to improve; as long as there's somebody there who's so much as witnessed a birth before, it's ready to jump into that person's open arms.


Other variants include childbirth in the backseat of a car (taxis are quite popular for this purpose). Inevitably leads to a Screaming Birth, often performed by someone with no medical training whatsoever.

As with many tropes, this one has one foot in Truth in Television — the water breaking is a reliable early indication that labor has started, and active labor can be quite a quick process (although also quite a slow one). However, the 'instant birth' part happens far more frequently on television than it does in real life, and in many real-life labors the amniotic sac remains intact until well into labor or even until birth. An infant is often described as ‘born in the caul’ if they have a piece of the amniotic membrane on their head or body, and even rarer cases have seen a baby born ‘en-caul’ - that is, born inside a fully intact and unbroken amniotic sac!


Likewise, in most of these fictitious situations, the woman's baby is her first — which, on average, rarely precedes a labor period of less than twelve hours, which would outlast almost any "crisis." On the other hand, there are documented cases of Real Life second or third babies who begin to deliver so quickly that the mother barely has time to get into a bathtub, let alone a backseat.

Usually combined with Clean, Pretty Childbirth. Compare with Out Giving Birth, Back in Two Minutes, when the birth happens quicker than it should and offscreen. Not to be confused with Express Delivery.



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  • Played straight in the Fullmetal Alchemist chapter "Miracle at Rush Valley," where Winry Rockbell delivers a baby based on her family's background in medicine and medical textbooks, before a doctor can even be reached. Edward is less than helpful.
    • Also in the 2003 anime "Fullmetal Alchemist", where Edward himself (with absolutely no background) delivers the Hughes' daughter Elysia when he is twelve years old.
  • Justified in Dragon Ball Super, as Bulma's husband refused to leave her side until the birth was over. When he was needed for a tournament, Whis literally teleported the baby out of Bulma's body to make the birth last all of twenty seconds.

    Fan Works 
  • This happens in Chapter 13 of Extended Stay when the Mistress goes into labor at the altar during her and the Warden's wedding. However, this is subverted as she doesn't actually give birth at the altar right away. There's actually enough time for Warden to send Jailbot and NOVA out to find a doctor, for the robots to come back with said doctor, and for Mistress to be moved into another room where she eventually gives birth to brother-sister twins.
  • In The Monstrous Company of Thorin Oakenshield this trope is justified by the fact that the baby is mixed race and the father is a hobbit, thus the baby is much smaller than is normal for the mother's race. As the characters are familiar with Death by Childbirth they are surprised and delighted at the easy birth.
  • Completely averted in How the Light Gets In in regards to Laurel giving birth. Dean recalls her going through "two weeks of prodromal labor, sixteen hours of active labor, and close to three hours of pushing like a fucking champ", and Laurel remembers what a long, horrible, and unbelievable painful ordeal it was.
  • Justified in For Love of Magic since Tonks uses her Metamorph powers to alter her body so her son is born in just two minutes. Luna and Fleur are mentioned to rather envy her as even with magic, childbirth is still not a quick and easy process.
  • By the time Jessica gets to the hospital in Hell's Kitchen, Full of Grace, it was already too late to do the epidural despite calling Trish the moment her water breaks and getting her to the hospital in record time.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ellie gives birth in the middle of a raptor fight, and only Diego, who knows nothing about delivering a baby, is present! Ellie screams and winces, and Peaches comes out already happy and sleepy, in one of the most exaggerated Hollywood births ever.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Played straight in Gone. Diana gives at the bottom of a certain mineshaft, with hardly any assistance and not a lot of preparation either.
  • Played straight during Reuben's birth in The Red Tent.
  • When Queen Isabel births her last child in The Kingdom of Little Wounds, it almost slides out of her without effort because her body has done this so many times. She's had seven live children already and who knows how many miscarriages.
  • The Keepers of the House: Abigail's water breaks, she has exactly three contractions, and then she has her baby.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frasier, particularly Daphne's birth. Needless to say, this was Daphne's first child; and as usual, twelve hours of average labor was condensed down to twelve seconds.
    Daphne: Oh my god, my water broke! The baby's coming right now!
    Niles: Because I said "open bar"? (Daphne screams at the first contraction) Oh, okay, all right, don't-don't panic, there's plenty of time to get you to a hospital.
    Daphne: The hell there is! He's coming right now!
  • Everybody Loves Raymond, in the back of Robbie's police car. Only it was a false start, and Robbie had started to go through his emergency birth procedures, much to Ray's chagrin.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Disaster" Worf has to deliver Keiko and Miles O'Brien's daughter in these circumstances. His only experience was a course taken on a holodeck years ago, per Starfleet regulations—thus his irritation that Keiko's birth isn't going as it's "supposed" to.
  • Lost:
    • This happens when Claire gives birth on the island. Unfortunately, the only doctor, Jack, is tending to a dying Boone. Charlie and a non-English speaking Jin have to aid her delivery, on a rock in the jungle. Made even more odd by the next morning, where Claire is up and walking around with no limp or pain and carrying her newborn. After a birth with no anesthetic, this is a little bit hard to believe. This, paired with Locke's sudden ability to walk after years of paralysis, was an early hint that the island itself has Healing Hands.
    • Played very straight once again with Claire in sideways (it takes the same amount of time for Claire to give birth that it does for Charlie to get a towel) but it's partially saved because it's not real anyway... sideways is purgatory.
  • Psych:
    • Subverted when Chief Vick's labor takes most of the day, and she is calm and level-headed throughout it. Lassiter, on the other hand...
    • Later played painfully straight with Marlowe. Her water breaks and she gives birth on the way to the hospital, mere minutes later in the back of Shawn and Gus' food truck.
  • Roseanne had an episode like this when Jackie had her baby, but semi-averted the Trope. Her water broke at the diner and Roseanne was able to take her home, get her suitcase, and take her to a hospital without being too rushed. While Jackie was nervous through the whole thing, Roseanne was very calm, reminding her the first baby takes several hours. Of course, Roseanne was largely using this to justify her not telling Jackie's fiance she was in labor, since she wanted to be in the delivery room instead of him, which came back to bite her when Jackie went into early labor (not sudden, but gradual), and she had to scramble to find him.
  • In the season 1 finale of Glee, the labor only lasts as long as a performance of "Bohemian Rhapsody".
  • In a season 2 episode of Community, Shirley's water breaks in the Anthropology 101 classroom and she ends up giving birth in front of the chalkboard. Justified in that she's been having contractions all day (although she's either not realized or refused to believe they were contractions) and this is her third child.
  • This happened in the Australian soap, Home and Away, in early 2011. Nicole was on the beach with Angelo at the time, and there was no way to get her to the car or for an ambulance to reach them. So she gave birth on the sand, within minutes of her water breaking.
  • Played straight in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody's Christmas episode, which is a shout-out to the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas day (complete with no room for the couple).
  • Averted in Xena: Warrior Princess. A minor character going through her first pregnancy meets Xena and Gabrielle in the middle of the day. She mentions that her contractions had already started (and thus, her water had broken). The baby is delivered just after nightfall.
  • Friends: Averted with every on-screen labour. Both Phoebe and Rachel's waters break suddenly, but both have ample time to get to the hospital and have normal labours (very lengthy in Rachel's case). Phoebe is in labour long enough for Joey to be diagnosed and treated with kidney stones, Monica getting set up, Chandler freaking out, an Operation: Jealousy, the triplets' mother arriving from five hours away, and Rachel asking if Phoebe can keep a baby. Rachel's labour lasts 24 hours and a double-length episode. Carol's birth also takes a very long time allowing for the gang to lose each other in the hospital, and Phoebe, Ross, and Susan to get trapped in a caretaker's closet for a very long time. Erica, the mother of the twins Chandler and Monica adopt, is implied to have been walking around for several hours without realising she'd started labour and that her "stomach cramps" were actually contractions.
  • Invoked (?) in Leverage, where Sophie is pretending to be pregnant, needs to get away from questioning police officers, and so waits until their backs are turned and pours water on the ground. Then starts acting her heart out until the paramedics whisk her away.
  • In the Halloween episode of Desperate Housewives, Danielle's water breaks at a party and she gives birth within the space of just a few minutes. Because Bree is attempting to cover up the pregnancy, she has to claim to everyone that it was just a popped water balloon, then go back to get Adam (who is a trained gynecologist and figured it out) to help deliver the baby when Orson is too drunk to do it.
  • Averted in Malcolm in the Middle where when Lois's water breaks she still has time to try to get her husband, who took the boys out for the day, back home to take her to the hospital. Unfortunately, he ends up in the hospital from driving into a street light, so Lois spends the rest of the episode having a lengthy childbirth without him.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Rodney lampshades this when Teyla gives birth on a Hive ship with no one else around ("No one has babies this quickly!") which Teyla handwaves by saying her water broke a long time before that.
  • General Hospital:
    • Carly feels the first twinge of labor pains (there's not even a mention of her water breaking) and immediately declares that there's no time to get to the hospital and that her dinner companion has to deliver the baby right then and there. Even for a second child, that's ridiculously fast. Though this was a dream sequence. . .
    • Also when Felicia goes into labor at a jazz club. She too insists that there's no time to get to the hospital and delivers right there on the floor—after laboring for a considerable amount of time in which she could have done exactly that. Luckily, this being a show called General Hospital, she was surrounded by physicians.
  • Amen. When Thelma goes into labor at a telethon (again with no mention of her water breaking), she declares that there's no time to get to the hospital. Yet there's enough time for an EMS crew to get there and tend to her. Again, given that this is her first child, the rapidity of this is unlikely.
  • Lampshaded on Seed with the birth of Rose's baby. Her water broke while she was in a hardware store and she is brought to a hospital. She then gives birth 45 minutes later and it was apparently quite easy and rather painless. When the mothers of Harry's other children find out about this, they are livid. Their births were long and painful. Anastasia's mother spent 56 hours in labor.
  • Played very straight in the opening pilot for Army Wives, where she has exactly one contraction and about five minutes before she's already crowning, and they only barely have enough time to drive her to a bar down the road before she quickly pops out twins.
  • Doc Martin: Louisa, less than half an hour had passed between waters breaking and delivery.
  • Alias: A heavily pregnant Sydney goes on a mission with her parents, to steal an item from the bank vault. The item is retrieved quickly, Irina tries to double-cross them, Jack was expecting it. As the two argue, Sydney, who showed no signs of being in labour previously (but who did have a placental abruption repaired the previous episode) interrupts them telling them the baby is coming. Meanwhile, Peyton sends a team into the bank to double-cross Irina. In the time it takes Jack to swiftly take out the team, Irina to escape with the item and air support to arrive to extract Sydney (called by Irina), Sydney gives birth. It was not only a fast birth, but it was a quick breech birth.
  • Played very straight in Bones. It's unclear when Brennan's water actually breaks, but she suddenly announces that she's in labor while solving a case in a prison, then insists that they don't have time to make it half an hour to the nearest hospital. Granted, this is just an Excuse Plot so she can have the baby in the barn of a hotel with no available rooms.
  • Played straight in White Collar when Diana's water breaks. The baby is coming right then and there, and Mozzie (of all people) has to be the one delivering. A surprised Neal walks in on Diana and Mozzie holding the baby.
    Mozzie: I'm a dad!
    Diana: Not even close!
    Mozzie: I'm a midwife!
  • Baywatch A pregnant woman goes into labor while swimming, and after rescuing her, Mitch has to deliver the baby. Once again, given that this was her first child, it's unlikely that labor would be so fast. This was ironically averted in a much earlier episode where Eddie and Shauni had to tend to a pregnant woman, but she labored for several hours and it was explained that they couldn't get her to a hospital because roads were blocked due to an earthquake.
  • In the Upstairs Downstairs reboot, Agnes goes into labor and gives birth while the rest of the household is listening to Edward VIII's abdication speech (clocked by the BBC at 7 minutes, 1 second).
  • In the final episode of Perfect Strangers, when Mary Anne goes into labor, Jennifer takes her out to the car to take her to the hospital, but a couple of minutes later, Jennifer re-enters the house and says that Mary Anne had just given birth in the car.
  • Hot in Cleveland has everyone in a party bus taking everyone to Victoria's movie premiere. Her daughter Emmy abruptly goes into labor, insisting she won't make it to the hospital. With the closest thing to a doctor present being Melanie's dentist date, Joy's detective partner Bob takes charge, having grown up with his mother being a midwife. Cut to Emmy smiling and holding her new baby girl.
    Victoria: You're really in labor? I thought you were just trying to pull focus!
  • Subverted on Farscape. Aeryn shows no signs of labor until her water breaks and it goes quickly once it starts, but this is actually much longer than a Sebaccean labor would usually take. Because the baby is half-human, things are different, and Aeryn is not pleased when John lays down some hard truths about the human birthing process.
    John: On Earth it can last days.
    Aeryn: I have killed men for less.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Averted in Retail when Marla's water breaks she just calmly says that she needs to call Scott to take her to the hospital and doesn't need an ambulance. Fiona is later shown already born three strips later. Lampshaded in this dialogue:
    Val: It always seems more urgent on T.V.
    Marla: That's because wetting your pants then driving calmly to the hospital doesn't make for good drama.

  • One of the rescue missions in Gottlieb's Rescue 911 is "Stork", where the player must deliver a mother in the middle of childbirth to the emergency room.

    Web Comics 
  • Shortpacked!:
    • Justified during Robin's pregnancy with her triplets: due to Robin's Super Speed her contractions sped up much faster than a normal person's, so literally seconds after her water broke...
    Robin: I pooped you out right into my leggings in the middle of the store.
    Tabby: MOM!
    Abby: Ha, awesome.
    • Averted with Amber giving birth to Donna: about nine comics pass between the readers first finding out she's in labor and her introducing Donna, and in that time Ethan spent at least two hours waiting in line for a toy, Robin and Leslie try to get Manny to hook up with Ethan (not knowing they were already seeing each other), and Faz gets kicked out of the delivery room.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Legendary Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev was born on a train traveling through Siberia. He was his mother's fourth child, and it was in 1938. Such births tend to be faster than first-timers, and hospitals were few and far between at that time and place. Likewise, a doctor was more likely to be on such a train than most other civilians (except for Dr. Zhivago, who missed his). In comparison, a normal passenger jet today can circle almost half the globe in the time than it takes for the average first-time childbirth.
  • This baby girl was born on a plane going from Russia to Armenia. Her mother decided to name her after the flight attendant who delivered her.
  • Ina May Gaskin is the author of Spiritual Midwifery, a collection of "Amazing Birthing Tales" from the Tennessee commune "The Farm". She and her contributors chronicle a number of cases where the baby arrived before the midwife did — a midwife living within easy walking distance.
  • With the advent of labor-inducing drugs, births can take only a few hours.
  • Women with the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can sometimes find that active labor progresses very quickly (often two hours or less), even with first deliveries, because the particular nature of the disorder can result in less resistance and more flexibility in the birth canal, making it easier for the baby to move through it. It can be beneficial because it avoids long labors and reduces the risk of some complications, but it can also be painful and scary for the mother, especially if she's not expecting it, and the same connective tissue problems that make the birth so quick leave her at risk for other complications such as a ruptured uterus.
  • This woman's water broke during a trip to the zoo. The family headed for the exit but didn't get there before the baby showed up. Averted to some extent as Dad was a medical professional and had no problems helping with the birth.
  • One of Louis XIV of France's mistresses, the duchess of Lavallière, was rumored to have started giving birth as Mass started, and was delivered before it ended. If that's not impressive enough, the place looked like nothing had happened there and the duchess was already gone.
  • As described by Seth Meyers, when his wife went into labor with their second child, he and their midwife were hustling her into a cab to go to the hospital when she informed them "The baby is out". He looked at her and realized that she was right, describing his 911 call as "We're having a baby...we had a baby" in about one minute.
  • Discussed on Facebook when a photo was shared showing a dad-to-be playing video games in the delivery room. Half the comments were utterly pissed at his perceived negligence, while the other half—people that have actually had children themselves—defended him by explaining that labor can take anywhere from several hours to several days and is 99% waiting, and several moms said they were playing games with their husband/boyfriend to pass the time.

Alternative Title(s): Instant Birth Just Add Water, Instant Birth Just Add Labour