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Pregnant? Leaking fluid? Take my advice

September 2, 2008 |  6:54 pm

Newpalin_2Attention all 40-something women in the third trimester of pregnancy! Need a second opinion on what to do should you find yourself a continent away from home and leaking amniotic fluid, as Republican vice presidential wannabe Sarah Palin apparently was earlier this year?

You're in luck. Advice is ripe for the picking on political, social and idle-musing blogs everywhere.

Here's an account, from the Washington Post, of the frenzy starter: "Palin has told reporters she was in Houston on a business trip a month before her due date when she felt contractions and leaked amniotic fluid. After consulting with her doctor, she and her husband flew through Dallas and Seattle to Anchorage, then drove 45 miles north to the Mat-Su Regional Center, where she delivered after labor was induced."

Some commentators suggest such a lengthy journey and seemingly low-key response may not have been the wisest course. From Mom's Tinfoil Hat: "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 care."

Others roll their eyes at the second-guessing. From Politics, Guns & Beer: "Even if you don't like Sarah Palin, do you honestly think she would have forgone immediate medical care if there were indications she or the baby were in danger?"

If you're not wild about those offerings, feel free to choose hindsight that appeals to your personal political views and taste for conspiracy theory. The options are plentiful.

Then check out this basic information from MedlinePlus on what amniotic fluid actually is and, with this practical advice from, learn how to determine the difference between it and other types of discharge. (Amniotic fluid apparently smells sweet. Urine smells like ... urine. Come on, you know.)

To focus more specifically on the subject at hand: The National Women's Health Information Center lists these signs, among others, as possible indicators of premature labor:

  • Contractions: "You may or may not feel pain, but your abdomen or stomach will get very hard (feel like it is tightening) and then relax, on an off."
  • Menstrual-like cramping: "You may or may not be uncomfortable with these cramps that feel like menstrual cramps."
  • Increased discharge from your vagina:  "Much more discharge than what you are used to during your pregnancy can be a sign of preterm labor. A sudden gush of a lot of water or a small trickle that is continuous should also be reported to the doctor."

These symptoms would be worrisome enough in the relative serenity of a home located within shouting distance of a chosen, and presumably trusted, physician. They would be even more worrisome if you knew a couple of plane rides and a long drive separated you from that setting.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has plenty to say about travel during pregnancy. The first tip: "See your doctor before you plan to travel late in pregnancy. You don't want to go into labor far from home." Most people don't, no.

And as such, it seems unlikely that 40-something women in the third trimester of pregnancy would find themselves even considering setting out for Texas from Alaska while late in what could be considered, because of maternal age, a high-risk pregnancy (although prognosis, as HealthAtoZ points out, varies). Note for the geographically confused: Canada would be closer. It seems similarly unlikely that they'd want to undertake, or be advised to undertake, such a roundabout return trip while leaking fluid of any sort.

But should you find yourself in this position, perhaps you should skip the blogosphere and consult ... the aforementioned physician. Let's just hope you chose well in that regard.

— Tami Dennis

Photo: Republican presidential candidate John McCain and running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a campaign rally.

Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images