Atlantic Cities

What Happens When a Woman Has to Give Birth on a Subway Platform?

What Happens When a Woman Has to Give Birth on a Subway Platform?
Jason Reed/Reuters

Earlier this morning, some Washington, D.C., Metro riders experienced something special: just before 11 a.m., a woman went into labor on a northbound Green Line train and within minutes, delivered a healthy baby boy right on the platform at the L'Enfant Plaza station.


Saa Alpha, the metro station manager who called for medical assistance. Photo by Jenny Xie.

Station manager Saa Alpha says he heard "real loud groaning, moaning" from a pregnant woman who had just exited a train, and then saw her water break. He proceeded to call for medical assistance. That's when things took a turn for the lucky: An off-duty EMT who just happened to be on the same train rushed to assist the woman as it became clear she would need to deliver the baby right on the platform. Another passenger removed his t-shirt and gave it to the EMT for use during the delivery.

Alpha says the 23-year-old new mom appeared calm but weak after the baby was born, but by that time, paramedics had arrived to transport mother and child to a nearby hospital. A crowd had gathered by that point, but Metro employees intent on crowd control did not allow many people to come through.


The area where the baby was delivered. Photo by Jenny Xie 

According to Caroline Lukas, spokesperson for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, this is the first time something like this has happened at least in her one and a half years at the transit agency. The closest comparable situation occurred last year, when a woman went into labor on a train during rush hour, but that woman made it to a hospital in time for the actual delivery.

So what is the standard operating procedure for an emergency birth in an underground transit station? Lukas says Alpha followed protocol by calling for medical assistance when a customer is seen in distress. She also confirms that, amazingly, there was no service disruption throughout the incident. After letting the then-expectant mother off onto the platform, the train she had been riding simply sped off as usual.

By the time reporters got there to interview Alpha, it was hard to believe something extraordinary had transpired there just half an hour earlier. But before getting back to work, Alpha turned around one last time and made sure we heard him say, "The metro delivers!" 

This morning at least, no one could argue.

Jenny Xie is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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