Dear Rabbi,

Our family just moved closer to the synagogue so we would be able to walk to the synagogue and not drive on the Sabbath. This has been a most exciting time for our family, as we recognize how important it is to the traditional Sabbath rest.

Our dilemma is that I am pregnant, due in several months, and I don’t know what to do if I would go into labor on the Sabbath. I am sure it would be okay for us to drive to the hospital in such a case. The question is, is there anything we should know beforehand?


Congratulations and congratulations! Both on the future birth of your child and on your family’s advancement in the observance of the Sabbath. As the traditional blessing goes, “b’shaah tovah umutzlachat, may it be in an auspicious and successful time.

As I am sure you know, when it comes to a life in danger, one must do all that is possible to save that person, even desecrating the Sabbath if necessary.1 A woman who is in labor is considered to be someone whose life is in danger, and one should do everything that is needed so that the mother can give birth to a healthy child and have a healthy recovery.2

In modern times, women often give birth in hospitals that are not within walking distance. According to Jewish law, a woman in labor is allowed to travel to a hospital to give birth.

The question is, how?

Under some circumstances it may be okay for your husband to drive you to the hospital; however, complications could arise. For example, once your husband drops you off, there is no longer a need to drive to save a life, and it would be difficult to permit one to drive and park the car in a parking lot or the like. (Note that for this reason, your husband would not be able to go home even with a taxi, since there is no life in danger.)

For this reason (and many others), rabbinical authorities of the twenty-first century have suggested that one have a plan in case such a scenario occurs, so that the woman in labor can be swiftly taken to the hospital. Some suggestions:

  1. Get to know your local taxi services and find one you feel most comfortable working out a plan of action with. Best to always have a backup taxi service and not just one.
  2. Have them understand that on the Sabbath you cannot drive your car, and in case you go into labor then, you would like them assist you to get to the hospital as soon as possible by having a non-Jewish taxi driver take you there. Most taxi companies will work with you.
  3. Ask them if they could post a note for the dispatcher in case the main dispatcher is not there at the time.
  4. Tell them that you will prepare the money for the cost of the ride in an envelope, and that the driver should come into the house to take the money.3
  5. Ask also that the driver take your things from your house into the car and from the car into the hospital.4

Most taxi services are understanding and will be fine with this arrangement, and in many populated Jewish areas they actually may have done this many times before.

This is what you need to know:

  1. It is best for a non-Jew to dial the number of the taxi service, or if they are located nearby, someone could run over there. (Of course, if this would cause a delay, one should call the taxi oneself. It is best to dial in an unusual way, like by using your knuckles).
  2. Your husband, and whomever you planned to take with you to the hospital, may come with you in the taxi.
  3. You should prepare the belongings you want to take with you before the Sabbath.
  4. It is okay to ask the driver to travel to a farther hospital where you feel more comfortable giving birth (such as if your OBGYN is at a farther hospital or even if a certain hospital makes you uncomfortable); however, other reasons—such as if a further hospital is cheaper—would not justify the further distance.

If you find these preparations daunting, enlist your rabbi to assist you in finding a taxi service that would be helpful. In any case, tell the taxi service that if they are accommodating, you will spread the word in the Jewish community.

It is also a good idea to preregister, which most hospitals have as an option. In any case, if you arrive and they say they cannot wait for you to sign until after the Sabbath ends, if you are a righty, sign with your left hand and if you are a lefty, sign with your right hand.

I want to again stress that all of these conditions apply only when you feel they would not cause any emergency. Of course, if you feel that there is an emergency, do whatever you can to arrive at the hospital as soon as possible.

Please see Are There Jewish Customs for Pregnancy and Birth? from our Pregnancy and Birth section.

Looking forward to hearing good news.