28/01/2014 14:21 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Soldier Gives Birth To Surprise Baby In Afghanistan - But How Come So Many Women Don't Realise They're Pregnant?

Soldier gives birth to suprise baby in Afghanistan - but how come so many women don't realise they're pregnant?PA

A female soldier is preparing to fly home from Afghanistan with the new baby she didn't know she was having until she gave birth.

The woman, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, had complained of stomach pains before medics informed her she was in labour.

She gave birth to a son five weeks prematurely in Camp Bastion on Tuesday. It is understood the baby had been conceived before she flew to Afghanistan to begin the six-month tour.

The gunner was in her 34th week of pregnancy when she went into labour. It is the first time a soldier from the UK has given birth while in Afghanistan.

Today, a specialist paediatric team from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, were flying out to assist mother and son on the flight home.

What is most amazing about the story is the fact the woman didn't know she was having a baby!


She is said to have passed fitness tests and training, including an eight-mile run with a 25lb backpack.


But it is something that happens remarkably often – as Parentdish has reported many times – with up to one-in-600 mums-to-be totally unaware they are pregnant.

In March, we reported how student Patricia Nowell, 20, had the surprise of her life when she was rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis - and came home with a baby son! She went to hospital with stomach cramps and had to catch 3lb 8oz Matthew when she went to the toilet while waiting to see a doctor.

Amazingly, she said: " I had no cravings, no bump, hadn't put weight on and it never crossed my mind I could be pregnant."

In another case, Jodie Kenna got an unexpected Christmas present when she gave birth in the bath – because she didn't even know she was pregnant.

Trainee nursery nurse Jodie, 25, had been sent home from work with stomach cramps and decided to have a hot soak to ease them. But within minutes she was screaming in agony as she delivered 7lb 5oz Elizabeth.

Perhaps the most remarkable example is Sally Giles, 35. She had no idea she was pregnant until shortly before she gave birth - and incredibly she was having twins. Emma and Kate were born at 28 weeks, each weighing 2lb.

Even more remarkable was the fact Sally, from Leyland, Lancashire, already had a five-year-old son and was on the Pill. So when she began to feel tired and rundown, she just thought it was down to being a busy wife and mother, but decided to get a check-up with her GP all the same. He suspected an underactive thyroid gland and organised blood tests.

A week later, the surgery called her with the results and said they'd like her to see a midwife. A scan then revealed she was having twins.

Thirteen days later, her daughters were born early.

"You do feel a bit of a fool not realising you're having a baby - or in my case two babies," she said at the time.

"After all, I had done everything during my pregnancy you are not supposed to do - from drinking wine to eating soft cheese and shellfish, and even carrying a wardrobe up and down the stairs because I was decorating.

"But I'd still had "periods" on the Pill, and although my jeans were tighter, I could still do them up."

Jen Mearns, a midwifery manager of London's Birth Centre, said: "There are a few very young women who are in self-denial about being pregnant. They might conceal their pregnancy from families and friends, and even pretend to themselves they aren't having a baby.

"But, difficult as it is for many people to imagine, situations where the woman truly has no idea she is having a baby really do happen. And often they occur in busy women, and particularly as they approach the menopause."

It's a theory backed up by a midwife who spoke to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio Five Live today. She said it was perfectly possible the soldier in Afghanistan was oblivious to the baby growing inside her because she would have been so focused on soldiering.

She said: "Some women have a very small weight gain and some have very quiet babies. The fact that she is a soldier and has been very focused on her duties and her work on the frontline means there is a potential distraction element where she has not been thinking about the possibility that she is pregnant."

But are there other reasons? In the States, the incidence of surprise babies is so common that they have a TV show dedicated to the subject, fittingly called I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. Its experts say that besides from the obvious reason – denial – there are a number of other factors that can contribute to the "surprise pregnancy" phenomenon:

• The foetus is small, inactive, and/or carried toward the back of the womb. Many women believe that the baby's movements are just irregular or strong digestive activity!

• Recent previous childbirth. Many women continue to believe that they cannot get pregnant right after giving birth, or while they are breastfeeding. Not true!

• Dieting. Women who are very active and watch their weight religiously may crank up their fitness routine and/or begin dieting when they notice a weight gain. Because of this, they may not gain weight as their pregnancy progresses.

• Stress. Stressful jobs, family, and personal lives contribute to irregular periods, and may cause women not to pay attention to their menstrual cycle, or blame missing periods on stress. • Unborn baby is mistaken for a tumour or cyst. Especially when a woman has a history of endometriosis, or fibroid cysts.

• Obesity. Carrying a lot of excess weight can perfectly disguise the baby bump. • Wrong use of birth control. Many women are certain they could not be pregnant because they use birth control. However, all birth control methods have a failure rate.

• Breakthrough bleeding. Some women continue to have period-like bleeding throughout their pregnancy; it may be lighter or irregular, or even coincide with a woman's usual time of the month.

• Negative home pregnancy test. These tests aren't fool-proof. Whether taken or read incorrectly, or simply giving a false reading, once a woman has tested negative for pregnancy at home, she may simply rule it out.

• History of irregular cycles and/or infertility. Not being able to get pregnant in the past, a history of missing or irregular periods, and/or being close to menopause can all fool a woman into thinking she couldn't be pregnant. The truth is, unless a method of birth control is used every time a woman has sex, she can get pregnant!

P.S. The name of the soldier's baby hasn't yet been revealed but we reckon Sebastian would be perfect – after Camp BASTION!