parents

Seven mums-to-be from around the world. Seven very different hospital bags.

Packing for the hospital for many Aussie mums-to-be is an involved process.

With tons of advice and lists sent from well-meaning friends and relatives, our bags end up filled with hydrating drinks, massage oils, exercise balls and MP3 players filled with our ideal birthing soundtracks.

Some women take three bags – one for labour, one for the baby and one for post-birth.

But, for others, the birthing essentials look vastly different. For them, packing for birth focuses far more on the basics — like plastic sheeting so they can give birth on a clean surface or a razor to cut the baby’s umbilical cord.

A series of profiles by international charity WaterAid brings to light the very different birthing circumstances of women across the globe, including some who deliver their babies with no access to clean water, electricity or sterilisation equipment.

Malawi

malawi ellen post
Image via WaterAid.
malawi post
Image via WaterAid.
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To give birth at a health centre that has no electricity, no running water and no sterilisation equipment, 23-year-old expectant mother Ellen packs her own plastic sheet for hygiene.

Her bag includes a torch, a razor and string to cut and tie the baby’s umbilical cord and three sarongs for her and the baby.

Australia

melbourne collage
Image via WaterAid.
Melbourne
Image via WaterAid.
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Melbourne mum-to-be Katy Shaw, 31, packs several outfits for the baby (including multiple pairs of socks and hats), swaddles, several pairs of comfy pyjamas, hydrating drinks, massage oil, maternity pads, snacks and plenty of toiletries.

She says she is lucky to never have to question how hygienic a place is, knowing Australian hospitals are clean and have sterile environments.

Zambia

zambia collage
Image via WaterAid.
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Image via WaterAid.
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Hazel, a 27-year-old mother from Hamakando village in Zambia packs the following essentials: a sarong, some baby clothes, some soap, a bucket and a plastic sheet for the bed because there isn’t enough water to wash the sheets between uses.

She says: “We have a borehole at the clinic but there is no running water in the maternity ward.”

United States

new york deanna post
Image via WaterAid.
New York post
Image via WaterAid.
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New Yorker Deanna’s bag includes a book on mindful birthing, fresh clothing for the baby, sleep mask, coconut oil, Bose stereo and headphones, thongs, a nursing bra, nursing tops, nursing pads, a neck rest, snacks and toiletries.

“Being pregnant certainly heightens your awareness of how fortunate we are to have access to great birthing facilities and clean water,” she says.

“You want the best for your baby and it’s devastating to think about dangers such as contaminated water and unhygienic facilities.”

Madagascar

Madagascar Collage
Image via WaterAid.
Madagascar
Image via WaterAid.
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Claudine, 36, will bring cotton wool, alcohol for cleaning, pads, baby clothes, a bucket and a thermos. She has access to running water in the village near her house.

United Kingdom

London Collage
Image via WaterAid.
London post
Image via WaterAid.

Joanne, 34, from London packs a blanket and several changes of clothes for the baby, maternity pads and underwear, an iPad, nappies, wipes, baby mittens and hats, toiletries and snacks.

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Tanzania

Tanzania Agnes post
Image via WaterAid.
Tanzania post
Image via WaterAid.

Agnes, 22, will give birth at a Tanzanian hospital with very limited water. She packs baby clothes, a blanket, a flask and some tea.

The beautiful images certainly make you think twice about what really is a birthing necessity.

Every minute, a newborn dies from infection caused by lack of safe water and an unclean environment. WaterAid wants to ensure that healthcare facilities have access to clean water and have adequate toilets and are committed to good hygiene practice and promotion. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org/au. 

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