By Debbie Ducommun
The birth process normally takes 1-2 hours. The first sign is a bloody discharge from the vagina. The birth usually proceeds without need for assistance, but occasionally, and especially in first-time moms older than 6-8 months, there will be problems. I’ve seen 3 rats who died during birth, and I’ve heard of several others. The danger of an obstructed birth is that the mother can go into shock. A Caesarian section may be possible if done soon enough.
Once the birth process begins, if no babies are delivered within 2 hours, there is definitely a problem. The rat’s uterus is shaped like a Y and a baby can get stuck across the bottom of the Y. Gently massaging the mother’s abdomen may help reposition the problem baby. If a baby is stuck in the birth canal, it may be possible to lubricate it with baby oil and pull it out with forceps. Then the rest of the babies can usually be delivered normally or with the aid of oxytocin.
If the mother survives the birth with unborn fetuses, she may be able to expel or reabsorb them. In this case it is a good idea to treat her with antibiotics to prevent infection.If the mother dies leaving surviving babies, or if the mother refuses to nurse them, the best chance for the babies is to foster them to another nursing mother.