I have spent more time Googling John McCain’s VP pick Sarah Palin this weekend than studying. Mostly because I didn’t know much about her. (I could say the same for McCain, apparently.)
I am going to mostly keep above the fray. First of all, because there is a perfectly wonderful article written about her, scandal wise and the shame of it all, by Rebecca Traister at Salon.com. Other political journalists are covering her political gaffes and convenient contradictions, of which there have already been many.
What I wanted to talk about has something to do with the pregnancy (sorry, Rebecca, I can’t resist talking about the uterus.) I don’t want to talk about any rumors about her pregnancy, or cast any shame on her daughter. Strictly from an obstetrical point of view, I want to take her version of her labor and delivery with Trig at face value and trust her. Trust her to tell the truth, maybe. But trust her judgment if it is indeed true?
From the Anchorage Daily News,
Palin was in Texas last week for an energy conference of the National Governors Association when she experienced signs of early labor. She wasn’t due for another month.
Early Thursday — she thinks it was around 4 a.m. Texas time — she consulted with her doctor, family physician Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, who is based in the Valley and has delivered lots of babies, including Piper, Palin’s 7-year-old.
Palin said she felt fine but had leaked amniotic fluid and also felt some contractions that seemed different from the false labor she had been having for months.
“I said I am going to stay for the day. I have a speech I was determined to give,” Palin said. She gave the luncheon keynote address for the energy conference.
Palin kept in close contact with Baldwin-Johnson. The contractions slowed to one or two an hour, “which is not active labor,” the doctor said.
“Things were already settling down when she talked to me,” Baldwin-Johnson said. Palin did not ask for a medical OK to fly, the doctor said.
“I don’t think it was unreasonable for her to continue to travel back,” Baldwin-Johnson said.
So the Palins flew on Alaska Airlines from Dallas to Anchorage, stopping in Seattle and checking with the doctor along the way.
“I am not a glutton for pain and punishment. I would have never wanted to travel had I been fully engaged in labor,” Palin said. After four kids, the governor said, she knew what labor felt like, and she wasn’t in labor.”
Still, a Sacramento, Calif., obstetrician who is active in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said when a pregnant woman’s water breaks, she should go right to the hospital because of the risk of infection. That’s true even if the amniotic fluid simply leaks out, said Dr. Laurie Gregg.”
Uh, excuse me? Her water was leaking, she was feeling contractions, and she has had four previous children, and she delivered a speech and then took TWO airplane flights and then DROVE past hospitals with NICUs to go to her small town doctor? I can’t believe she flew at 36 weeks, even without contractions and ruptured waters!
Not only is there the risk of infection, but broken waters and contractions are usually the sign of progressive labor, even if the contractions aren’t frequent. Once the membranes are ruptured, 90% of women are in active labor within 24 hours, and most women deliver within that time. Especially a multip (a woman who has had several children before.) There is no way her doctor in Alaska could tell over the phone if Palin’s waters were indeed ruptured or if she was dilating.
Any health care practitioner worth her license would have advised her to immediately go, get a test with Nitrazine paper to see if her membranes were indeed ruptured, and get a vaginal check to see how much she was dilated.
Palin and her doctor both apparently knew the baby had chromosomal abnormalities and may have been born with serious defects, which are common in babies with Down Syndrome. What if she gave birth on the plane? She didn’t even alert the airline that she was pregnant, much less 8 months pregnant, with broken waters and contractions and a baby with known abnormalities. Any mother with premature rupture of membranes should be treated as an emergency, and this pregnancy had the extra twist of the Down diagnosis.
This is a glaring example of extremely poor judgment. This is the sort of anti-science, anti-thinking, headstrong nonsense that has embroiled our country for the last eight years. We don’t need a vice president (or president, for that matter) who thinks mother’s intuition and her faith are more important than appropriate medical standards of care. This is an extreme situation. She was the governor when she behaved like this, and put her life and the life of her son recklessly in danger. Not to mention, she put the other passengers and employees of the flights she was on in an unfair position. And according to her, she had no compelling reason travel from one end of North America to the other. She did have a compelling reason to get to a hospital as soon as possible.