Airline employees deliver baby in airport bathroom

By Greg Gelpi

As packs of holiday travelers waded through lines and traipsed through the airport, one passenger found herself in the solitude of a Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport giving birth.

The father of the woman, whose name hasn't been released, rushed from the bathroom and alerted the first airline employees he spotted.

Airport spokeswoman Felicia Browder said the woman did not feel well and went to a bathroom in the airport's north terminal at about 3:15 p.m. Sunday, before going through a security check.

Continental Airlines sales agents Denise Reid and Wanda Clark, who both have medical training, responded to the woman and helped deliver the baby.

"By the time we were entering the stall, the baby was coming out," Reid, who studied respiratory therapy at Georgia Medical Institute, said. "It wasn't until after the two had gone that I said 'Wow! What happened?'"

Reid said she has assisted in a "couple" of cesarean section deliveries in the past and that all three remained calm during the experience. Her only thought was comforting and caring for the mother.

Wrapping the baby in a jacket she retrieved, she kept the baby warm until paramedics arrived to cut the child's umbilical cord and tend to the mother and child.

Both the mother and daughter, who are from Huntsville, Ala., were well and again planned to fly to London with the child's grandparents this week.

Dr. Edwin Bello, the chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Southern Regional Medical Center, called pre-term labor "fairly common" and the "most common condition we have in pregnancy."

During the past 30 years the rate of pre-term labor has remained constant at about 15 percent of all pregnancies, Bello said.

"Within 24 weeks we really advise against any kind of travel," Bello said. "Usually, it's OK to travel unless there are risk factors for early birth."

At the 24-week or seven-month mark, pregnant women should remain within an hour of where they expect to deliver their babies, he said.

Although passengers experience less changes in pressure during flights these days, a change in pressure could "rupture the membrane," Bello said, and lead to complications and even death for the baby. Some groups at higher risks of pre-term labor include much younger or much older women, mothers expecting multiple births and those with a history of pre-term labor.

"Car travel can also be an issue," Bello said.

Taking to the road can also be dangerous for expectant mothers, he said. Sitting for extended periods of time can cause blood clots in their legs. Women should walk and stretch their legs every hour to reduce the risk of such problems.

The stress of travel can also impact a pregnancy, he said. An increase in stress can lead to an increase in contractions and pain, although not necessarily early labor. Bello called it "common sense" that added stress is not healthy for a baby.

Ultimately, anyone who is pregnant should consult a doctor before traveling, Bello said. A woman's doctor would know her history and any existing conditions that would affect her ability to travel.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.