Woman gives birth over the Atlantic during a flight from Africa to the US

(CNN) — Talk about a memorable arrival into the world — or, in this case, above the world.

This past weekend, a woman went into labor on a flight that had departed the West African nation of Ghana to the United States.

This midflight labor happened on United Airlines Flight 997, which departed from Kotoka International Airport in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and was bound for Washington Dulles International Airport on an 11-hour flight.

They had been in the air for roughly six hours when the woman went into labor, United Airlines told CNN Travel in an email on Monday evening.

Luckily for the mother, a physician, a nurse and United flight attendant who is a former nurse were onboard the Boeing 787-8 aircraft ready to assist.

“Our crew was amazing,” United wrote in a statement to CNN Travel. “They acted quickly, assisted the medical professionals onboard and ensured everyone stayed safe throughout the flight.

“And we were especially thrilled to see the plane land with one extra, especially beautiful, customer onboard.”

Airport paramedics met the flight upon its arrival in the United States at 5:41 a.m. Sunday, January 30.

Witness account: ‘I just started praying’

Tiani Warren of Los Angeles was on United Flight 997. She was returning from a three-week trip to Ghana, where she visited the Genesis Shishidzee school in Jamestown, an older neighborhood in Accra, to help the children there.

She told CNN Travel she was in business class, and the woman who gave birth was in the row behind her, though they were separated by the emergency exits. That meant that the laboring woman had space in front of her seat to lie down.

“I was asleep. … I thought I was dreaming when I heard moaning. I got out of my seat, and I saw someone on the ground. A nurse was over her,” Warren said.

It took Warren a minute to fully realize what was happening.

When she did, “I thought, ‘Oh God, I know she is not about to give birth on this plane. I was literally counting her contractions — seven to 10 minutes apart. I was, like, freaking out. Oh, my God.”

“Then the doctor started working on her. They brought out an IV to put in her,” Warren said. “She was moaning and yelling, but half the people on the plane didn’t know what was going on.”

Adding to the tension: The plane encountered turbulence during parts of the flight, Warren said.

“I just started praying over her out loud as she was starting to push. She was crying. Before you knew it, the baby came out.”

‘I’m glad the baby is fine’

After some time, “the baby belched out a loud cry. … To be up close and personal like that, Lord Jesus help us all. I’m glad the baby is fine.”

The birth took place on the floor of the cabin in the space provided by the emergency exits, Warren said. She thinks it all took around two and half hours. Nearby passengers remained in their seats while the drama unfolded.

The mother was cleaned up and back in her seat before landing, Warren said.

Warren said the new mother told her that she’s Ghanaian but lives in New York City and that the doctor on the flight who delivered her was from Ghana as well.

She summed it up on an Instagram post:

“I literally just witnessed a woman giving birth on the plane. And … I am stressed out, I’m excited. I’m tired. All in one. But the baby is a boy. It’s beautiful. It was a little sketchy at first, but God is good. This is unreal. … I’m in shock right now. This is crazy.”

CNN Travel has been unable to reach the mother to ask for comment.

Other special deliveries

Though relatively uncommon, there are other instances of people giving birth in midflight.

Back in the spring of 2021, a woman gave birth on a flight to Hawaii from Salt Lake City, Utah. Making the story even more remarkable — she said she didn’t even know she was 29 weeks pregnant. Fortunately, there was a doctor and three neonatal intensive care nurses onboard that flight.
And in the summer of 2021, a baby girl was born on a US military evacuation flight from Afghanistan en route to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. She was named Reach after the call sign of the aircraft.