A British solider gave birth on the frontlines of Afghanistan on Tuesday, despite having no idea that she was pregnant at the time, the international force said. The pregnant solider apparently learned she was pregnant after complaining to medics about stomach pain.
Time magazine reports that both “mother and baby are both in a stable condition in the hospital and are receiving the best possible care.” But the child was born five weeks premature.
The woman, whose name has not been released, is a gunner for the Royal Artillery. She was shipped out with the 12th Mechanized Brigade in March. This means that the child was conceived before the soldier was deployed, and it is likely that the soldier simply never considered she could be pregnant.
According to Time, roughly 200 British soldiers have found out they were pregnant while in the service over the last decade, and as many as 70 have been sent away from the front lines. This case, however, is the first report of a child being born in the combat zone.
An undisclosed military source told the Daily Mail “This has left us completely gobsmacked. You prepare yourself for dealing with war wounded at Bastion – not a mother giving birth to a baby. It is the talk of the camp.
“This is a very unusual case. The mother deployed not realizing she was pregnant and had no idea she was pregnant until she gave birth. She has not done anything wrong.”
How exactly is it possible that the soldier didn’t know she was pregnant? According to a “senior Army insider’s” statement to the Daily Mail, it’s entirely possible for a woman to simply chalk up the effects of pregnancy to the radical change in environment from Britain to Afghanistan.
“It is bizarre that she didn’t feel some side effects of the pregnancy,” the insider said. “She is obviously pretty fit and strong. The strains and demands on soldiers working on the frontline make it surprising she didn’t realize.
“But the conditions of deployment, the different diet, the heat of the Afghan summer, the different hours of working, mean that many soldiers feel a little odd and put it down to the change of environment.”
While some have speculated that the incident will result in mandatory pregnancy tests for the British Army, the Ministry of Defense has stated that this will not be the case.
“No, we will not be bringing in mandatory pregnancy tests. We do not test women for lots of things and believe it really is up to them to come forward if they are pregnant,” a spokesman told the Daily Mail.
“The problem is that we could test them before they go but they could only produce a positive test weeks later. So we do not do it. There is only about 10 cases a year, and as soon as they find out we sent them home.”