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Melena: "I think today's the day. Look how low I've gone."
Frexspar: "Today? That would be like you, perverse and inconvenient. The worst possible moment for my ministry. Naturally."
Wicked

If a woman in fiction is established as near-term pregnant, and there comes an event that would be the worst possible time for her to go into labor, the baby is going to pick that time to be born.

Doesn't matter if it's drama or comedy, doesn't matter when the baby was actually expected to be due, doesn't matter if The End of the World as We Know It is approaching - it's coming now and the cast is going to have to deal with it on top of whatever crisis plagues them. A Delivery Guy will have to go into action quickly here.

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Its frequency in fiction aside, this is otherwise actually not as unrealistic as it sounds. The stress caused by extreme or sudden psychological or physical trauma can cause a near-term woman to go into labor, and an earthquake, attack by an army of mooks, apocalypse or the like have been known to be very stressful.

The most common exception, oddly enough, is any episode where the mother is already expecting to go into labor any moment and the drama around the birth itself is the point of the episode.

Compare Imperiled in Pregnancy. Super-Trope of Born in an Elevator. Frequently involves Instant Birth: Just Add Water! and a Screaming Birth. Sister Trope to Away in a Manger, which is a near-term pregnant woman in a Christmas Episode giving birth on or near Christmas.

The Other Wiki has an article on some births that may occur during this trope.

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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In Barefoot Gen, Gen's mother Kimie goes into labor the day the atomic bomb falls on Hiroshima, after watching her husband and two of her children burn to death. Six-year-old Gen is the only one around so he has to help. (All the doctors and nurses were too busy trying to help the bomb victims.) Sadly, baby Tomoko dies shortly afterwards as well, because Kimie (like many people in her community) was starving due to the high cost of food, and because of that, her milk dried up. Gen worked to get powdered milk for Tomoko, but by the time he managed to save enough money and buy some, it was too late; Tomoko starved to death.
  • In Coppelion, Ibuki enters into labor when the ordinary humans of the cast desperately need to evacuate. The team attempted to avert this by getting her airlifted to a hospital, but couldn't get a helicopter. Just to make things even more complicated, they can't transfer her out of the sealed trailer because the area is irradiated and she can't get into a hazmat suit while in labor.
  • A very real fear in Amakusa 1637, since a HEAVILY pregnant Japanese Christian woman named Yone is placed in a Drowning Pit alongside the local Hooker with a Heart of Gold. In the end Yone goes into labor few after she's taken out of there by Natsuki and Co., but she and the baby are more or less fine.
  • In the first episode of Tide-Line Blue, the stress of the attack on Yabitsu sends Isla into labor. Bad news; Keel is a Satisfied Street Rat with no medical knowledge whatsoever, despite having a crush on her and hanging out with her regularly enough for her to tell him her due date - next month, so the baby is on the edge of premature. Good news; Keel's twin brother Teen shows up, and he has all the necessary skills to safely deliver the baby. Bad news; he's one of the people attacking the city.

     Comic Books  

  • Subverted in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. Zoe is very heavily pregnant and goes into labor in issue #1. However, instead of her picking a bad time to give birth, she has complications from childbirth and starts bleeding internally. Simon doesn't have the equipment to save her and Serenity is forced to break cover to get her to a hospital, where she's arrested.
  • Jessica Drew gives birth to her son while the alien hospital she’s visiting is invaded by Skrull. Surviving the situation and the emergency c-section is somewhat justified, given she IS on a hospital and is stronger with better healing abilities than most people thanks to her Spiderwoman powers, but still.

     Comic Strips 
  • In Safe Havens, rain starts coming down in freezing weather, leading to iced roads. So of course Ming and Jenny go into labor at the same time. Somewhat downplayed, as Ming had always planned to give birth at home anyway, but still. To be fair, Dave shouldn't have tempted fate like that.
    Dave: I don't want to think about being iced in with two pregnant women on their due date.
    Jenny: Ug. This party dip makes my stomach hurt...every ten minutes...
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     Fan Fic  

  • In Chapter One of Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic A Rose And A Thorn 2: Eclipse, after a perfect day, watching a perfect sunset, a nervous Shadow is trying to give Amy his carefully planned wedding proposal when she goes into labour on the beach. It wouldn't be so bad, if not that he's apparently been trying to get up the courage to do it for weeks now. After the birth, everybody's too tired and stressed.
    Shadow's train of thought came to a full stop, "Uh... You what?!" The baby was coming? The baby was coming! Shadow's eyes widened and his mind raced to find an appropriate response and course of action. Finally, after several long seconds of deep thought, the trap-like mind of the Ultimate Lifeform came up with a brilliant plan, "We need to get you to the hospital!"
  • Inverted: In Chapter 12 of the Superjail! fanfic Extended Stay, the Warden and the Mistress get married while Mistress is 8 months pregnant. But just as they are about to kiss and wrap up the ceremony, her water breaks in front of everyone. A chapter later, she gives birth to mixed-gender twins.
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero example: Kyon was born during the Watanagashi festival ceremony. This was a heavy weight on his mother because, due to the birth's timing and the meaning of the festival, some of the Hinamizawa villagers believed Kyon was the representation of his mother's sin.
  • In Time Fixers: Nicktoons of the Future, all the main characters are out camping in the woods. Cindy begins to go into labor while Jimmy and the rest of the group go into the woods to find Junior after he goes missing. Tammy has to deliver the baby while everyone else has to rescue Junior from the SpongeCog robots.
  • As flashbacks in Offspring show, Mipha layed her eggs while out with her husband Link visiting Hyrule Castle. As a result the eggs were hatched far from Zora's Domain.
  • In Apprentice And Pregnant, Hollypaw gives birth to her kits in the middle of an attack.

     Film  

  • In Apocalypto, Jaguar Paw's wife Seven goes into labor while at the bottom of a pit that's filling with water from the heavy rain.
  • In Final Destination 2, the main characters believe they won't have to die if the pregnant woman gives birth, so the police picks her up and keeps her in a jail cell to make sure she is safe. Cue: her water breaking and the cop driving her to a hospital...Turns out she can't save them because in the initial timeline, while everyone died the pregnant lady actually survived.
  • Star Trek (2009): James T. Kirk's mother goes into labour during Nero's attack on his father's ship. His father gets the news of his son's birth just before he gets killed.
  • Taxi 2 starts with the protagonist driving a woman in labor and her husband to the hospital.
  • Subverted in Die Hard, when Holly requests a sofa for her pregnant secretary. Hans begins to roll his eyes at the situation, but Holly tells him the baby isn't due for another few weeks. The baby is not born during the events of the movie.
  • Subverted in Mad Max: Fury Road. Angharad clutches her stomach and gasps in pain while hiding from the Rock Riders, but it turns out the baby was just squirming and kicking painfully. A brief shot of her bare stomach during the ensuing chase shows him kicking so hard that her skin stretches.
  • A Quiet Place: Evelyn goes into labor on an isolated homestead when her family is out fishing, then makes a noise that attracts one of the vicious alien predators with super-acute hearing that have overrun the planet. She's stuck desperately trying to remain silent during her contractions while the monster prowls the house, until her husband sets off fireworks as a distraction.
  • Ellie in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, when she's stranded on the Plates of Woe with dinosaurs climbing up the rocks.
  • One of the plot threads in the trucker movie Christmas Comes to Willow Creek.
  • Children of Men: Kee, who is carrying the first human baby to be born in 18 years, starts going into labor while her escorts Theo and Miriam are trying to smuggle her through a refugee checkpoint. It is very important that Kee's pregnancy not be discovered by the wrong people, so when a guard notices Kee's obvious distress, Miriam is forced to create a diversion and is subsequently arrested and escorted away, never to be seen again.

     Literature  

  • In Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, Lady Sybil goes into labour just as Sam Vimes returns from a trip to the past. But Sam returns naked. He has to run across the city in the nude to be with her. He also has to choose to be with her over and above hunting the villain who was returned with him. Sam decides Carcer the villain can wait.
  • Justified in The Bible - the stress of hearing that her husband died in battle and The Ark of the Covenant was lost is enough to not only kill the already very old High Priest Eli, but send his daughter-in-law into labor.
  • Not really a "maternity" crisis, since in this case the birth is an egg hatching, but seen in the third book of the Temeraire series. Of all the times for a baby dragon to hatch, it would have to be just as the cast is on the run through enemy territory with almost no food, right?
  • Patriot Games Cathy Ryan goes into labor as the family home is being invaded by Irish militants. Luckily, she able to be evacuated to the hospital in time.
  • Wicked begins with Elphaba's unfortunately timed birth. Her father must go to another town to preach on that day. The first lines of the first chapter even revolve around discussing this.
  • Warrior Cats: A heavily-pregnant Sorreltail goes into labor when ThunderClan is being invaded by badgers, who fully intend to kill every one of these uppity newcomers. She and her litter survive, but Cinderpelt gives her life protecting them. She gets better, though.
  • When wyrms attack the Silver Isles in The Summer King Chronicles, the gryfon pride's heavily pregnant females are marched through labyrinthine underground tunnels to hide, and it's implied that the stress is what causes them to go into labor.

     Live Action TV  

  • Being a show about paramedics and hospitals, Emergency! had this crop up on occasion. The Pilot Movie even specifically pointed out that the rescue squad keeps an obstetrics kit on board for such occasions.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Keiko, wife of Miles O'Brien, whom had been established as pregnant in prior episodes, goes into labor in the middle of a shipboard crisis resulting from a collision with a random Negative Space Wedgie, stranded in Ten Forward and with only Worf available to be the Delivery Guy.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • The trope has a sci-fi Up to Eleven moment in "Before and After". Kes is moving backward in her own timeline, and time-jumps into her earlier self just as she's giving birth on a shuttle that's about to rendezvous with a severely-damaged Voyager which is under attack by a hostile alien species.
    • Averted in "Deadlock", when the baby is born and then everything goes to hell.
    • B'Elanna Torres, the ship's chief engineer, goes into labor as the series finale is starting.
  • Thrice in How I Met Your Mother:
    • Once on the most awesome moment of television ever (in-universe) on Robin's so-early-it's-still-late morning show.
    • Once at Marshall and Lily's wedding (the harpist).
    • Then Lily herself, when she's sent Marshall off for a relaxing night of drinking and gambling in Atlantic City to get him out of her hair.
  • On Bones, Brennan went into labor while investigating a homicide inside a prison.
  • In Highlander, Dr. Lindsey goes into labor after being caught in a tunnel collapse. Duncan ends up helping her deliver.
  • Played straight and averted by Good Luck Charlie. In season 1, the flashback to Charlie's birth has Amy fairly casually get up and get herself to the hospital. In season 3, for the 5th baby, Amy is a week late, and wants the baby out. She tries to induce pregnancy the day before Charlie's birthday, so the two youngest children didn't have to share a birthday. Naturally, she goes into labor the next day. Lampshaded at the beginning of the episdoe: "Wouldn't it be horrible if the baby came tomorrow?"
  • Eastenders has an episode where a woman goes into labor on a tube train that's being held at a signal.
  • Farscape has Aeryn going into labor in the middle of a war zone. She doesn't stop shooting her enemies for it either for a while, but she eventually (and reluctantly) had to turn the gun over to Crichton.
  • On Rookie Blue a pregnant cop goes into labor shortly after another female cop is kidnapped and the entire precinct is mobilized to look for her. The pregnant cop gets to the hospital without much hassle but the baby's father is in charge of the search so she forbids anyone to call him so he will not be distracted.
  • Lampshaded by John Sheppard in Stargate Atlantis when the city goes into quarantine and he is trapped with a heavily pregnant Teyla.
    Sheppard: It's just that every time one of these things happens in the movies, the pregnant woman goes into labor.
    Teyla: I am still a long way from my due date.
    Sheppard: Yeah, it's the same thing in the movies and then, wham!
    • It was ultimately subverted that time, but only because there was an EVEN WORSE situation later (Teyla gives birth while trapped on an enemy ship.)
  • Happens during the Grand Finale of The New Normal with the surrogate mother Goldie going into labor with Bryan and David's son during their wedding.
  • The X-Files episode "Existence" is the exception mentioned above—the entire episode revolves around Scully leaving town to give birth, hiding from the Super Soldiers who want to kidnap the baby. However, while in hiding, her water breaks right after "killing" Billy Miles and having the rest of the Super Soldiers descend on the abandoned town.
    • There was also the episode "Agua Mala" where Mulder, Scully, and a few other people are trapped in a flooded building with no power and an invisible jellyfish that liquifies people. As if there weren't enough problems already, a woman goes into labor.
  • The NCIS Christmas Episode "Newborn King" had the team defending a very pregnant Marine from mercenaries trying to get the baby, due to it being, if male, the only surviving heir to an Afghan tribe (she'd fallen in love with the previous heir, who was later killed by the Taliban). To make matters worse, there's a power outage that knocks out the cell towers. Gibbs ends up delivering the baby in a gas station while Ziva fights off the mercs in the next room.
  • British series Call the Midwife, being about midwifery, features its share of such situations. Notably:
    • A woman falls while hanging the laundry. She has a concussion and is in labor, 9 weeks early, with her 25th child...and the only people home with her are children too young to help.
    • A Jamaican woman who can't get through to the midwives by phone walks all the way to the steps of Nonnatus House, then gives birth in the hallway.
    • The daughter of a Swedish sea captain lives in a cabin so tiny that there's no room to spread her legs to give birth. The midwives have to take a rowboat and then climb a rope ladder to get to her.
    • A woman goes into labor as her father is dying and refuses to leave his side, or lie down on a bed. She gives birth kneeling on the floor while Nurse Leigh lies on the floor to catch the baby.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Joy goes into labor with the baby she's surrogating for Liberty and Ray-Ray while Earl's old friend Frank holds her hostage in her own formerly Frank's trailer and makes her move the stove to get the money he hid behind it several years ago.
  • Saving Hope: Alex goes into labor while doing her surgical boards. Since it would be impossible to get them rescheduled and she can't imagine doing another year as a resident while being a new mother, she manages to finish the oral exam before rushing off to the hospital. Fortunately, Maggie leaves before the end of her exam to help; it's a good thing, too, since there are some complications which Maggie, as an OB/GYN resident, is uniquely qualified to handle.
  • Bella and the Bulldogs: It's bad enough that the Bulldogs' playoff game is moved to the same day as Pepper's mom's baby shower, which Bella said she'd attend. No problem, they just smush all the activities into half the time and get out with plenty of time to spare. Cue Pepper's mom going into labor...with her husband fishing at the lake...and only Bella, a hyperventilating Pepper, and a fainting Sophie there to help her. And the only one not in labor with even a driving permit is Bella...meaning a 15-year-old girl who's had one ("technically one and a half") driving lesson is driving a woman in labor to the hospital...and trying to finally get to the playoff game.
  • Sisters. Second-youngest sister Georgie, nine months pregnant with the baby she's carrying for youngest sister Frankie, gets into a car accident and promptly goes into labor. It's not clear if she would have gone into labor regardless or if the accident triggered it.
  • A common Soap Opera trope. Bonus points if there's no one with medical training to assist the woman, or worse yet, she's alone.
    • Just like the "Sisters" example, All My Children's Brooke goes into labor while trapped in a wrecked car after an accident.
      • Desperate to reconcile with his pregnant wife Gloria, Adam kidnaps her and takes her to a cabin to plead his case. He's actually making progress until the stress sends her into premature labor and the baby dies.
    • General Hospital's Lucy decides to go to a spa to relax in the last days of her pregnancy. She's carjacked on the way and manages to make her way to an abandoned cabin. Sure enough, her labor pains begin. Pal Scott finds her in time, but as he's not a doctor, she's still not out of the woods.
  • ER's Carol goes into labor while she's on the subway, having just left the hospital. She's in so much pain that she can't simply switch to another train to go back and when she manages to, a well-meaning passenger almost pulls the emergency brake (which would have stranded her and made things even worse). Just as she finally makes it back to the hospital stop, she collapses and has to be carried the last few feet by her co-worker Luka.
  • Firefly probably tops every example in this category by having a woman deliver a child in a bordello while the local mob boss and his hired thugs are shooting the place up. On the plus side, the Delivery Guy is Simon, who's a doctor (albeit not an OB/GYN) and therefore knows what he's doing.
  • Midnight Caller: Devon goes into labor in the middle of her wedding ceremony, causing the priest to rush through the rest of it as quickly as possible. By the time he says, "You may kiss the bride," everyone has run out of the room.
  • Castle: Ryan's wife Jenny goes into labor at the same time her husband and Esposito become trapped in a burning building. In a twist, the mother is taken care of without a hitch; the crisis here is whether Ryan will survive the fire (he does).
  • Strong Medicine. Lu goes into labor while trapped in the rubble of a house explosion. To make matters worse, she has to talk her husband (who has zero medical training/experience) through doing a C-section. Luckily, a colleague arrives to take over.
  • The Partridge Family: Shirley went into labor with Danny during a picnic, two weeks before he was due.

     Video Games  

  • In Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Sybil goes into labor while the cast is about to return giant demonic Max to normal. Even Max, hedonist though he normally is, suddenly decides to help Sybil, which convinces Max's beleaguered and ignored superego that there is some genuine good in Max after all.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: One questline ends with you having to protect the woman pregnant with the first human to be born in the Andromeda galaxy as she's being attacked by the kett. To make it worse, after you stop the kett, the roekarr decide to show up. Thankfully, the child lives.

     Web Comics 
  • Kevin & Kell:
    • Danielle happens to go into labor on Election Night, however, the unprecedented amount of people going to the polls leaves her stuck in traffic, and she ends up giving birth at the house of, of all people, her brother Kevin's opponent in the school board election.
    • Lindesfarne's water breaks while she's being rescued from the carnivore supremacy terrorist group N.O.P.E. (as evidenced by one terrorist being sopping wet from it breaking over his head). However, Lindesfarne doesn't realize she's in labor until after the terrorists are arrested and carted off, and after the adrenaline wears off. (In case you're wondering how she missed such a big clue, the terrorists were trying to drown her.) To make matters worse, she's a good distance from civilization, being a councilor at a summer camp, and the only one qualified to deliver babies is busy with other patients from the terrorist attack. Luckily, with the help of Carl and Leona, she safely gives birth to her daughter Turvy.
  • Hominids:
    • Zona when she is in the middle of fighting Eetori and his goons. Just as she was having the upper hand, her water broke immediately after an earthquake..

     Web Original 
  • Ben Loka referenced this in his "Sitcom Cliches" video.
    She's having a baby! NOW!

     Western Animation  

  • Bob's Burgers: In "Ears-y Rider", the One-Eyed Snakes are in a confrontation with Logan Bush's parents after the Snakes terrorize Logan into giving back Louise's trademark bunny-ear hat. Louise locks the door so she doesn't miss any action, and naturally that's when one of the One-Eyed Snakes, Mudflap, goes into labor.
  • Pema in The Legend of Korra is pregnant all through the first season with her and Tenzin's fourth child, and yet it waits to be born when the Equalists launch their full attack on the city and Air Temple Island. The baby, a boy named Rohan, is born safely in the end.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter gets into an altercation with a scruffy-looking individual, and punches that person in the face. Everyone is horrified and gives Peter a What the Hell, Hero? for hitting a woman, although Peter doesn't believe them. It turns out that the person Peter punched really was a woman, and pregnant, because she went into labor right afterward.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • Arnold finds in his father's diary that when Miles and one friend were taking his mother Stella to the village and suddenly get caught in a volcano eruption, the poor woman went into labor. LOUDLY. Luckly they found shelter in an ancient ruins.
  • Martha Speaks: It is revealed in "The Jakey Express" that Mariella went into labour while pregnant with Jake on a snowy day and the car had broken down. They weren't prepared either, as she wasn't expected to give birth until two weeks later.

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