The challenges of travelling while pregnant

Published: 3 November 2015 16:52 CET

By Charlotte Hyest, IFRC

Sarah and Rama are two women with one thing in common. These young ladies are either pregnant or they have given birth while on the move. How do they cope with the arduous journey? While they are waiting to be registered on the island of Kos, Sarah and Rama share their stories.

Awaiting a fourth child

Sarah, an architect and a young mother of three children found out that she was pregnant a couple of days ago. Her first reaction was to cry. “I am afraid of the long journey and how tiring it will be. I am also concerned that I will not have regular access to doctors,” she says.

Yet with quiet resolve she intends to continue her journey. She explains that she had no other choice than to leave even if her husband could not accompany them. With tears flowing down her face she says: “It was so hard, but I made the choice with my head, not with my heart. My decision was made for the future of my children.” After eight months, Sarah will give birth to her fourth child in a new country, and she will be alone. Although she seems fragile, her words are those of a determined mother.

Giving birth alone

Rama has already experienced a pregnancy on the move. She fell pregnant while in a camp in Turkey and only had one medical check-up over the nine months of her pregnancy. Alone in a tent, with only her husband to help, she gave birth to Laily, an energetic baby who is now 14 months old. Giving birth outside of the hospital was dangerous for both her and her child, but Rama says she did not have any other choice.

Rama says she has no regrets, except for braving a sea crossing with her baby. “I never want to experience anything like that again. When the engine of the boat stopped working in the middle of the sea in complete darkness, I thought that we would die. I pressed Laily against me and cried. Everybody cried,” she says. The boat was found by the coast guard, and all passengers managed to arrive safely in Greece.

On the island of Kos, Rama received a baby kit and other essential items from the Hellenic Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations. Now she and her small family hope to continue to northern Europe in search for safety. "We had to ensure a safe life for our children," she says.

The Red Cross National Societies together with other humanitarian agencies are supporting vulnerable migrants along their journey. In Greece, the Hellenic Red Cross provides assistance to people on all the islands of arrival, in Athens and at Idomeni by the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. At Idomeni, a gynecological clinic provides check-ups for pregnant women and babies.

Like Sarah and Rama, many women decide to flee violence in their countries even while they are pregnant or have young children. Although they are aware of the risks they face during the long journey, they resolutely stand behind their decision to attempt to find place of safety for their families.