Pregnant Iraqi women fear trip to hospital

Dangerous nighttime roads lead to rise in scheduled C-sections.

By Lynn Harris

Published December 7, 2005 11:13PM (EST)

Kudos to reporter Leila Fadel for this heartbreaker in yesterday's San Jose Mercury News: Pregnant Iraqi women are praying -- or making sure -- their babies don't come at night.

"Lamya Kadum, 26, who's in her seventh month, wanted to have her baby naturally so she could see him come out of her and then hold him. But the gunfire and explosions on Baghdad's dark roads might take her life and the life of her baby, whom she called her 'ray of hope' in this place of misery. A planned Caesarean delivery could be one way to avoid that danger," says the article.

"The war in Iraq is forcing fearful choices on expectant mothers. Relatively well-off women are opting for Caesarean delivery to avoid the roads at night. After curfew there's even less assurance than there is during the day that Iraqis, who are ordered to stay in their homes after 11 p.m., won't be killed by mistake. The roads are rife with checkpoints, insurgents and jumpy Iraqi and U.S. soldiers."

According to Dr. Iman Ibrahim, a physician in a private hospital, "two of every 10 patients ask for Caesareans to avoid the roads and about half of them ask for labor to be induced during the day." Some wind up calling the police when they feel contractions; ambulances don't run at night.

One police captain says he's refused some such calls, fearing a trap by insurgents. Other times, he's risked his life to respond to them.

The article continues: "As the election for a four-year government in Iraq looms, [Dr. Ibrahim] expects the [hospital's] hallways to fill with pregnant women close to their due dates. The roads will be closed for at least three days during the elections."

Mission accomplished, indeed.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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