The Unexpected Things Moms Around the World Pack in Their Maternity Bags (PHOTOS)

The Unexpected Things Moms Around the World Pack in Their Maternity Bags (PHOTOS)

Chances are, when you packed your maternity bag for the hospital, you stuck to the standard items: baby clothes, a comfy robe, maybe some relaxing tunes for labor or an assortment of massage oils. But in other parts of the world, what's inside the bags of moms-to-be looks very different (think razor blades and flashlights!).

A new photo project from the leading international nonprofit WaterAid (which works to ensure that health-care facilities around the globe have access to clean water and sanitation systems and to promote good hygiene) reveals just how incredibly varied the maternity bags of moms from different parts of the world are, perfectly illustrating the wide range of experiences -- as well as how profoundly some of these women need better resources. 

"It was a way of connecting with people all over the world," says Sarina Prabasi, CEO of WaterAid America.

"Mothers want to have the best conditions possible for themselves and their newborn babies. There are remarkable similarities and remarkable differences in the things that they choose or are told to bring to their birth, especially depending on whether things like clean water and soap are readily available. This photo series had a visual impact different than if we had written it in words."

DeliverLife, a new project from WaterAid, photographed and interviewed the women for this series; click through for a stunning and personal peek into their bags!


Image via WaterAid/Jordi Ruiz Cirera

  • Se’ada Akmel


    Image via WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

    Se’ada, 19, is from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and was expecting her first baby in this photo. 

    "It’s my first child, and I am scared. I feel the pain," she said. "I was working at someone’s house as a maid when I got pregnant nine months ago. Then I told my would-be husband about it and he said quit work and come move in with me. So I did. We rent service quarters inside a compound and we share the tap and toilet with our landlords. The toilet is barely functional. It looks like it could collapse any minute and it is not comfortable for a pregnant woman. I somehow managed."

  • Inside Se'ada Akmel's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

    Inside the bag: a towel to hold the baby with, underwear, a loose dress, a cotton throw, and some fabric to use as a diaper for the baby.

  • Ruth Mweemba


    Image via WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda

    Ruth is 19 and from Simpemba Village, Monze District, Zambia. 

    "We were taught a lot of things about hygiene during my antenatal classes," she said. "My mother is here to support me and I feel better that she is by my side. I heard that the father to the unborn child should never sleep with another woman during my pregnancy as that would result in the death of the baby during delivery. If he did, elderly people must take his belt and roll it while performing some rituals and then throw the belt on the ground. If it stretches and becomes straight, then the baby would survive; otherwise it would die.”

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  • Inside Ruth Mweemba's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda

    Inside the bag: a baby suit with a cap (“I love the baby suit,” she said), napkins, socks, a peg for clipping the umbilical cord, soap, a fastener, baby powder, a dish, black plastic to put on the bed, and surgical blades to cut the umbilical cord.

  • Claudine Razafindrabary


    image via WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

    Claudine Razafindrabary, 26, is from Vakinankaratra region, Madagascar.

    "My family told me about the taboos around pregnancy and I’ve tried to follow them. For me, the main one is not putting a scarf around my neck during my pregnancy because if I do my baby could be born with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck. So I don’t wear a scarf. I don’t even have one at home because I want my baby to be born naturally without anything around his neck."

  • Inside Claudine Razafindrabary's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

    Inside the bag: new clothes, cotton wool, alcohol for cleaning, nappies, a thermos, a bucket, and sanitary pads.

  • Katy Shaw


    Image via WaterAid/James Grant

    Katy is 31 and lives in Melbourne. This is her first baby.

    “I feel it is unbelievable that women are in that position (heavily pregnant women collecting dirty water themselves in the countries where WaterAid works), dealing with the everyday stresses of pregnancy and the prospect of childbirth, as well as the additional burden of collecting water."

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  • Inside Katy Shaw's bag


    Image via WaterAid/James Grant

    Inside the bag: toiletries, snacks, nappies, a hat, socks, mittens, clothes, maternity underwear, maternity pads and nursing pads, massage oils.

  • Joanne Laurie


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Joanne is 34 and lives in London; she is expecting her first baby.

    "I have packed a water bottle, my sister suggested to bring something to make it (water) easier to drink (during labour). I will bring it empty and I'm assuming the hospital will have somewhere I can fill it. They must have a water fountain. I am taking that for granted, unlike people in Africa. The most important thing in the bag is the blanket my mum gave me to bring the baby home in, the same one my mother brought me home in."

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  • Inside Joanne Laurie's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Inside the bag: nappies, clothes, snacks, a towel, toiletries, a TENS machine, maternity pads, an iPad, a water bottle, medical notes, and a blanket.

  • Jackie Atuhairwe


    Image via WaterAid/James Kiyimba

    Jackie is 25 and lives in the Masanafu settlement of Kampala city in Uganda. She was pregnant with her first child.

    "I live in the Masanafu settlement of Kampala city where I run a small retail shop. I am happy to be a mother of a baby girl called Abagail Mulungi. She is my firstborn.

    "The sanitation and hygiene conditions in Melne Medical Centre were very good. There was a good toilet with water connections and the place was generally clean. During antenatal visits I learnt about the importance of being clean during pregnancy and after child delivery."

  • Inside Jackie Atuhairwe's bag


    Image via WaterAid/James Kiyimba

    Inside the bag: nylon sheets for covering the bed during the childbirth process so that it would not get soiled with blood, six pairs of gloves for the midwife to put on during the delivery process, a bottle of Jik disinfectant powder, a bar of soap to be used in cleaning the birth place, a roll of cotton wool for padding, two razor blades for use in the delivery process, a basin, a bucket, a cup, tea leaves and a tea flask, a baby wrapper for keeping the baby warm, body stockings, and a change of clothes.

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  • Hazel Shandumba


    Image via WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda

    Hazel is 27 and from the Hamakando Village in Monze District in Zambia.

    "We have a borehole at the clinic but there is no running water in the maternity ward. I have heard elderly women telling different do and don’ts for a pregnant woman like me. One of the things I was told is not to sleep too much during daytime. I was told if I do, the baby would also sleep at the time of delivery. I am not supposed to stand in the doorway because the baby will do the same while being delivered and will delay. The other thing I was told is not to put a scarf or necklace around my neck during pregnancy because the baby’s umbilical cord will wrap around the neck. It’s the same with a wrap (Chitenge) around my waist."

  • Inside Hazel Shandumba's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Chileshe Chanda

    Inside the bag: a baby blanket, cotton wool, a sarong (Chitenge), a baby suit, napkins, a dish for water to wash with, and a polythene roll to put on the delivery bed to maintain personal hygiene as there is not enough water and time to clean the delivery bed.

  • Ellen Phiri


    Image via WaterAid/Jenny Lewis

    Ellen is 23 and from Malawi. According to WaterAid, "she gave birth in Simulemba Health Centre, which serves over 70,000 people and delivers more than 90 babies a month. It has no clean running water, only four toilets for 400 people, showers that are a crumbling block with no doors or roof and no sterilisation equipment. Water is collected from a water pump shared with the local community of 2000 people. This water is not clean and queues to access it are very long."

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  • Inside Ellen Phiri's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Jenny Lewis

    Inside the bag: a torch (as there is no electricity supply), a black plastic sheet (to put on the delivery bed as, with no clean water; it’s hard to keep the delivery room and beds clean), a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, a string to tie the umbilical cord, 200 Malawian Kwacha note for food, and three large sarongs for the mother to wear for their stay (which could be as long as four weeks) and to wrap the baby in.

  • Deanna Neiers


    Image via WaterAid/John Neiers

    Deanna lives in New York City. This will be her first baby.

    "I feel so happy nurturing this life inside of me, it truly is a miracle. I also am very fortunate to live within walking distance of one of the best hospitals in New York City. Being pregnant certainly heightens your awareness of how fortunate we are to have access to great birthing facilities and clean water. You want the best for your baby and it’s devastating to think about dangers such as contaminated water and unhygienic facilities. I imagine a world where all women have a safe, clean place to birth their babies."

  • Inside Deanna Neiers's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Deanna Neiers

    Inside the bag: a music player, coconut oil for massage, lavender oil, Arnica gel, snacks, nursing bra and pads, a nursing pillow, comfortable clothes to wear at the hospital and to travel back home, a soft swaddle blanket for baby, a long-sleeve onesie, and a knitted hat.

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  • Agnes Noti


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Agnes is 22 and having her third child in the Kiomboi Hospital of Iramba District, Tanzania. 

    "I come from Tutu. The water for drinking, we buy from the shop. (Last time the other water came from) the river. There was white water. It was my grandmother who went to the river. The water from the river is not safe for drinking. So in the river many people fetch water that suffer. So using that one you can’t trust that water."

  • Inside Agnes Noti's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Inside the bag: clothes for the baby, a cape (blanket) for the baby, socks, a basin, a flask, and tea.

  • Cathelijne Geuze


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Cathelijne Geuze, pregnant with her second child in the UK. 

    "I am really curious to meet this little person now and looking forward to my daughter meeting her sister or brother and for us to be a family of four. I am looking forward to find out what this little person's personality is like. That's what I really enjoy with my daughter, she has very distinct personality traits."

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  • Inside Cathelijne Geuze's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Inside the bag: Clothes, snacks, an e-reader, an iPod, a water bottle, and a hand-knitted blanket.

  • Takako Ishikawa


    Image via WaterAid

    Takako Ishikawa lives in Japan. 

    "When I gave birth for my first child, I had to take diaper, baby wipes, maternity shorts, and my pajama, but this time at a different hospital those items are all included in the hospitalization fee. It would be helpful since I do not have to worry about washing my pajamas."

  • Inside Takako Ishikawa's bag


    Image via WaterAid

    Inside the bag: clothes for the newborn baby, insurance card, seal impression, consent form for hospitalization, consent form for blood transfusion, mother-and-child health record notebook, patient’s registration ticket, maternity shorts, crop top bra, daily sanitary goods, tissue paper.

  • Tiff Rolf


    Image via WaterAid/Caitlin Kennedy Bradley

    Tiff Rolf lives in the USA.

    "For every mother, pregnancy is an exciting but also anxious time. All you want in the world is to create a healthy environment in your body for the baby to grow. You can’t help but worry from the moment you find out, and then throughout the whole pregnancy with each new test and scan, is the baby healthy? Am I doing everything I can to help this baby thrive? And this is even when you live in a country where you have great medical care and all the luxuries of the world. I can’t imagine the added fear of not having access to some of the most basic necessities, like water and facilities that won’t make your child ill."

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  • Inside Tiff Rolf's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Sam Morgan

    Inside the bag: a birth plan, pajamas, flip-flops and slippers, snacks, mother's milk tea (to help with breast milk), and a cute outfit for the baby to wear home.

  • Zaituni Mohammed


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    Zaituni Mohammed of Kisana in Tanzania is 29 years old; this is her fifth child.

    "Since I came to this hospital today is the fifth day. I came here at 10 p.m. and then I delivered at 6 a.m. I came from a health facility called Kisana. Because at that dispensary the limit to deliver a baby there is only three kids. If you have more than that then they refer you to this hospital.

    "From my house that is where I got sick and then my husband rented a motorcycle and then I was brought here. After reaching this hospital I came with my relative, all straight forward, taken to labour and then they started examining me."

  • Inside Zaituni Mohammed's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Anna Kari

    "By the time I was brought here I was feeling so much pains at my stomach. I carried a basin, a bucket, and clothes."

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  • Chadla Suyhidy Morales Benjamio


    Image via WaterAid/Jordi Ruiz Cirera

    Chadla Suyhidy Morales Benjamio, 16 years old, is having her first baby in Bilwi, Nicaragua. The well for the house she lives in is contaminated by the nearby septic tank and not safe for drinking, but the girls in the house still use it for bathing and washing, causing a skin rash to break out all over Chadla's body. 

  • Inside Chadla Suyhidy Morales Benjamio's bag


    Image via WaterAid/Jordi Ruiz Cirera

    Inside the bag: sheets, a towel, a sweater, cotton to put in her ears after giving birth, and a hair tie.

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