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Pregnant woman going into labor on Shabbat


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 14, 5779
Is it better to have a non-Jew drive Shayna to the hospital or have the Jew drive her to the hospital? Are we allowed to give her an epidural, should she request it? Shayna just expressed interest in her husband joining us in the hospital. There is no way for him to get there unless he goes in the car with his wife to the hospital. Are we allowed to bring him along on the drive to the hospital?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is not clear to me who is asking the question for who – that is who is the “we” in the question, and what is your relationship to Shayna ? (who I assume is pregnant and due to give birth soon). In general there are several rules that need to be followed in cases of a women going into labor on Shabbat. Firstly, the most important rule is that if there is any suspicion that there may be a danger to the mother or baby, then everything should be done no matter what infractions of Shabbat may be involved. So, if time is of the essence, she must be driven to a hospital by anyone available, Jew or non Jew. If an ambulance needs to be called, that should be done. Let me stress again – if using a non Jew to drive for example will mean a delay in getting to the doctor, and there is a concern that she may need a doctor or hospital facilities immediately, whoever is available to take her should do so without pause. If though there is no real concern for time, or there are available both a Jew and reliable non Jew to take her to the hospital, then it is better to use a non Jew. However, if getting a non Jew will take time which may be dangerous, or one can not rely on the non Jew, then a Jew should drive. The husband (or other person) may accompany the woman to the hospital in order to help her, and to keep her calm. This is true even if there is another person already in the car, as the woman might be scared if without someone she knows who can give her close support does not travel with her. A woman may request an epidural on Shabat and it may be administered even by a Jewish doctor (Chut Shani 4,89,9). I hope this is of help to you – but as I wrote, it is not clear exactly what your situation is, and perhaps if you write with more details I will be able to answer more clearly. Blessings
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