— A British soldier has given birth to a boy while serving in
Afghanistan at the same desert camp where Prince Harry is deployed and a
Taliban attack last week killed two U.S. Marines.
birth in a field hospital is thought to be the first time a serving
member of Britain's military has gone into labor in a combat zone.
solder, a Fijian national serving as a gunner with the Royal Artillery,
delivered the child Tuesday at Camp Bastion. The sprawling British base
in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province last week suffered a major
attack in which two U.S. marines were killed and six American fighter
Britain's defense ministry
said Thursday it had not been aware the soldier was pregnant, and
stressed that it does not allow female soldiers to deploy on operation
if they are pregnant. It declined to say whether the soldier, who has
not been named, was aware of her pregnancy.
and baby are both in a stable condition in the hospital and are
receiving the best possible care,” the ministry said in a statement. It
said a team of doctors would fly out to Afghanistan in the coming days
to help the solider and her son return safely to Britain.
woman had deployed to Afghanistan in March, meaning her child was
conceived before her tour of duty began. She is one of about 2,000
Fijians who serve in the British military, even though the country
became independent from Britain in 1970.
Bastion, which hosts the U.S. Camp Leatherneck, is home to most of
Britain's 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, including Prince Harry – who
arrived there earlier this month to serve as an attack helicopter
“This sort of thing makes life
difficult for everyone else, but the important thing is the welfare of
the female soldier. This could have gone wrong and we don't know if the
attack on Camp Bastion might have forced the birth,” said Maj. Charles
Heyman, a retired officer and author of “`The British Army Guide.”
Heyman said it may have been “that the excitement of the tour masked the symptoms of the pregnancy.”
Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, a British
parenting charity, also suggested the soldier's demanding duties could
explain why she either didn't know she was pregnant or attempted to
ignore the signs.
“It could be that she was so
very focused on other things, and because she was in a life-or-death
scenario, that she simply didn't recognize that she was pregnant,”
Phipps said the pregnancy may not
have been obvious to the soldier's colleagues. “Not everyone has a very
big baby bump, some women carry their baby far inside,” she said.
O'Brien, a consultant obstetrician at University College London
Hospital, said cases of unnoticed pregnancies were unusual but he
encountered at least one each year.
some women who have very irregular periods, often women who are very
fit and exercise a lot. There are women who don't have sickness during
pregnancy. Some women – particularly those who are overweight – don't
recognize they have put on weight, or feel the baby moving,” O'Brien
Many cases involved women who refused to
accept that they were pregnant and attempted to disguise it,
particularly young women living at home.
“It's not just that they hide the pregnancy from their parents, they often become in denial of the pregnancy,” he said.
you have a combination of any or all of those things, a pregnancy can
go undetected, or the woman can be in denial of it if the implications
to their life are so great,” said O'Brien, a spokesman for the Royal
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist.
study published in 2011 by Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary said that denial
of pregnancy was more common than expected, suggesting it occurred in
around 1 in 2,500 births.
In a 2002 German
survey of Berlin obstetric hospitals, researchers found that 40 percent
of women who didn't realize they were pregnant had seen doctors who also
failed to spot the signs.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.