A memorable delivery

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 26 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1246
  1. Michael Beeney, general practitioner and retired ship's doctor (
  1. 1Eastbourne

    The newspaper competition's first prize seemed idyllic: flight from Dayton, Ohio, for three days in London, followed by relaxing five day crossing from Southampton to New York on board the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth II. Only there are two slight hitches: the winning couple are expecting the imminent birth of their first child, and it is winter in the north Atlantic. Suffice to say, the ship's doctor is blissfully unaware of the woman's delicate condition until he is woken from his postprandial afternoon nap when her waters break, on the fourth day of the voyage, 500 miles east of New York in mountainous seas and a force 12 gale.

    “Oh dear, Mrs H,” he says, “you are 8 cm dilated.”

    “My last Hb was 9.5, doctor.”


    The scene is set: a calm, physically robust 32 year old registered nurse from Ohio accompanied by her rather nervous school teacher husband prepare for the birth on board an ocean liner. “I don't need any analgesia, thank you,” she says with alacrity. The first stage goes like clockwork. On “six …

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