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War in Ukraine | Giving birth under the bombs



Their photos went around the world. It was last Wednesday and they both emerged from the maternity hospital in Mariupol, this Ukrainian city besieged by Russian forces.

One was carried on a stretcher, amidst the still smoking ruins, her hand on her swollen, blood-stained stomach. The other was standing, looking haggard, blood on his face, his polka dot pajamas stretched over his abdomen.

Transported to the last hospital still functional in this city bordering the Sea of ​​Azov, pounded for more than two weeks, the first of these two women underwent a Caesarean section, but neither she nor her baby survived.

The surgeon who operated on her, Timur Marin, told the Associated Press (AP) that the bombardment left her with a crushed pelvis and a dislocated hip. The baby was dead at birth.

According to the testimony of Timur Marin, quoted by the AP, when she realized this, the woman shouted “Kill me! His own death followed shortly.

The identity of this victim of the Russian assault on Mariupol is not known. All we know is that relatives have recovered his body from the hospital and that he will therefore not end up in a mass grave.


Mariana Vishegirskaya gave birth to a baby girl on Thursday.

The other woman was luckier. She gave birth last Thursday to a baby girl named Veronika. In normal times, Mariana Vishegirskaïa acts as an influencer in beauty products and has 100,000 followers on Instagram.

Her latest entry, from two weeks ago, shows her happily displaying newborn baby clothes on her belly, wondering if she’s expecting a girl or a boy.


Mariana Vishegirskaya usually acts as a beauty product influencer.

The answer to his question came tragically, under the bombs.

fear of giving birth

The story of these two women and the maternity hospital in Mariupol illustrates the precarious situation in which the medical infrastructures in Ukraine find themselves, after three weeks of Russian offensive. And the particularly perilous condition of pregnant women.

Women’s magazines like She Ukraine are publishing stories that would have been unimaginable just three weeks ago. In the Ukrainian version of Marie Claire, for example, an article explains how to give birth alone at home or in a shelter, without medical assistance. “Gather towels and sheets and cover the place where you plan to give birth,” advises the author.

“Right now, pregnant women cannot feel safe in the hospital,” said Iryna Tatarenko, editor-in-chief of Marie-Claire Ukraineto DailyMail.

With the military grip tightening more and more on Kyiv, many women prefer to seek a hospital where to give birth in safety, as far as possible from a besieged area, points out Christopher Stokes, head of emergency operations for Doctors Without border in Ukraine.

People hear continuous shooting and seek a hospital as far from the front line as possible.

Christopher Stokes, Head of Emergency Operations for Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine

But by moving away from major centres, these women risk ending up in poorly equipped hospitals, suffering from supply problems and staff shortages.

Because the warehouses of medical equipment and drugs in the capital are increasingly difficult to access, and even in Kyiv, stocks are starting to run out, reports Christopher Stokes.

With insecurity and empty pharmacies, the risk that a birth with complications will turn out badly for the child or the mother is all the higher, he explains.

Hospitals at risk

Hospitals, like other civilian infrastructures, are particularly exposed to bombardments. The use of heavy weapons with large explosive charges increases the risk of hitting civilian infrastructure, notes Christopher Stokes.

Over the weekend, the latter traveled to Zhitomir, a town 130 kilometers west of Kyiv, which has been relatively spared from the war, at least so far. However, Russian strikes destroyed a school there, and a hospital in the region suffered damage during a bombardment.

Even before the bombs rained down on the Mariupol maternity ward, women were beginning to look for safer hospitals than their local hospital to give birth, says Christopher Stokes.

The images from last Wednesday have exacerbated the fear of having to give birth under the bombs.

Zhitomir, a city of 266,000, is preparing for a possible Russian assault, according to Christopher Stokes.

The city is bunkering, there are sandbags everywhere, people think they are in the crosshairs of the Russians because the city is close to Kyiv and has a rail logistics base.

Christopher Stokes, Head of Emergency Operations for Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine

Like others, pregnant women in Zhitomir are wondering where they can safely give birth. At the same time, says Christopher Stokes, “Ukrainians increasingly feel that there is nowhere safe from the bombs anymore.”

Learn more

  • 1.23
    Fertility rate in Ukraine in 2019. This rate, which represents the average number of children that women in a country have during their lifetime, between the ages of 15 and 50, was in the same year 1.47 in Canada .


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