Staying calm for her baby became Alina Shynkar’s personal and quiet battle during the Ukrainian War. She went to Maternity Hospital No. 5 in the capital, Kyiv, before the war started in late February to rest in bed due to risk of premature labor, only to see the hospital turn into a chaotic, panicked state weeks later.
“The girls were so stressed that they started giving birth” prematurely, she said. Doctors at his hospital moved frightened pregnant women, some of whom were already in labor, in and out of an air-raid shelter several times a day. Some were crying and others were bleeding.
The Russian assault on Ukraine has been a nightmare for pregnant women, especially in cities like Mariupol, Kharkiv and Chernihiv which have been bombarded almost constantly since the war began in late February.
In the besieged city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine last month, Russian artillery hit a maternity hospital, killing a woman and her unborn child and injuring several pregnant women, authorities say. Ukrainians.
Women in war zones across the country have been forced to give birth in cold, decrepit basements or in subway stations crowded with people cowering from the shelling, and without electricity, running water or midwives for help them.
By the end of March, Russian missiles, bombs and artillery had destroyed at least 23 hospitals and clinics.
Even pregnant women lucky enough to escape war-torn areas are deeply stressed, moving in and out of shelters during air raids or enduring arduous and perilous journeys to the relative safety of western Ukraine or to countries neighboring Europeans.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, the organization’s sexual and reproductive health agency, about 265,000 Ukrainian women were pregnant when the war broke out. About 80,000 births are expected in the next three months.
War poses both immediate and long-term risks to mothers, fathers and newborns. Among them are premature births, which can lead to a host of complications both immediately and later in life.
Dr Jeanne Conry, president of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, said a lack of access to drugs to prevent postpartum haemorrhage could lead to increased deaths of mothers. Babies are at risk, she said, because doctors might not have immediate access to the equipment needed to resuscitate them, and they have only moments to catch their first breath.
Dislocation and stress affect virtually all pregnant women in Ukraine. Doctors say pregnant refugees and their babies are at a higher risk of illness, death during childbirth and mental health problems that can continue after birth. According to doctors, displaced people have higher rates of premature births, low birth weight and stillbirths.
When an air raid siren sounded on a recent day at the hospital, the staircase filled with women from the maternity ward clutching their stomachs and dragging themselves to the shelter, a maze of low-ceilinged corridors and storage rooms. One room has been converted into a post-operative observation room and a makeshift neonatal site. Another, still cluttered with filing cabinets, has become a delivery room. The women rested on mats on the ground.
In Kyiv, another complication is a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew that leaves pregnant women entirely dependent on ambulances.
Yulia Sobchenko, 27, said she gave birth around midnight on March 20 and took an ambulance to hospital. But she was delayed by Ukrainian soldiers at checkpoints who, fearing the saboteurs, insisted on opening the door of the ambulance to check that it was indeed a woman in labor.
Her child was born at 2:55 a.m. Within two hours, she was taken to the basement due to an air raid.
“Me in my nightgown and with a rag between my legs and a little baby just after giving birth, and my husband with all our bags, had to go to the basement,” she said.
Her son, Mykhailo, was healthy and weighed 6 pounds 3 ounces at birth, she said, and “is a child of war.”