Editor's note: We are updating this story to reflect reminders from health experts.
MANILA - Taking a licensure examination can be unnerving for most, but this woman did it it while on the verge of giving birth.
This was just one of the many feats of Stefanelle Atienzar Sibuyan, who this month alone achieved two milestones: welcoming motherhood and becoming a physician.
Sibuyan was taking her Physician's Licensure Examination (PLE) at the Mary Chiles Colleges in Sampaloc, Manila last March 11 when she felt labor pains.
"It wasn't easy to act normal smiling at my proctors that time, because they don't know I was already in labor," Sibuyan told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday.
"Knowing that my due date falls on March and PLE falls on the 1st and 2nd week. I never doubted myself that I can still push thru with this. Siguro lakasan na lang din ng loob, tiwala at dasal," she added.
In a now-viral Facebook post, Sibuyan said she was already 1 to 2 centimeters dilated and 60 percent effaced, a week before the board exam. But she continued attending reviews and read her materials at home while lying down.
Right before the start of the 2-day board exams, Sibuyan experienced spotting and her water bag broke. She didn't tell anyone, not even her partner whom she said would surely rush her to the hospital.
When Monday came, her contractions were between 15 to 30 minutes apart. In an hour, she finished the first exam and tried resting while constantly checking on her baby's movements and heart tones.
"I just read all the test questions once and answer it right away. Maybe it's divine intervention. I just think of finishing the exams ahead of time so I could rest a little bit at breaks," she said.
She finished the last exam in 20 minutes while experiencing contractions every 3 minutes.
She submitted everything and went down to where her partner was waiting for her. Luckily, the testing site has a hospital and that was where she delivered her baby.
She was rushed to the delivery room at 3:15 p.m. and her baby was born 13 minutes later.
"Glad I delivered normal. Kasi pagka-transfer ko sa katabing hospital I'm 10 cm fully dilated na. Konting push na lang. I think nakatulong yung paglalakad ko nung nagbubuntis pa ako," she said.
(I am glad I delivered normal. When they transferred me to the nearby hospital, I was already 10 centimeters fully dilated. I easily pushed the baby out and I think my walking exercises really helped me deliver the baby easy.)
Maternal health experts have however noted that pregnant women who experience either vaginal bleeding, water bag breaking, or contractions with consistent intervals must immediately go to the hospital.
The World Health Organization has noted that there are "situations where complications arise during labor," which may increase the "risk of serious morbidity and death increases for both the woman and baby." Proper and immediate medical care are essential to ensure the health of the mother and the baby.
Three days after giving birth, Sibuyan learned that she passed the board exams.
However, her baby boy had to be readmitted to the hospital due to neonatal sepsis, which according to WHO is a "life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs."
Sibuyan's baby has since recovered.
Originally from Santiago City, Isabela, Sibuyan never thought that sharing photos of her week-old baby and her experience on Facebook would become viral.
"I am speechless, grateful...sobrang thankful din ako sa well-wishers for their warmest greetings; sa parents namin na all throughout support right from the start, sa partner ko who never left my side," she said.
She also went on to thank the guards at the college who helped rush her to the hospital, her baby's pediatrician and the OB-GYNE.
"At higit sa lahat kay God, who is the reason for all of these success. Ino-offer ko lahat sa kaniya 'yun. In return, I'd be a healer just like Him," she said.