It takes Marita Banda*, a 45-year-old mother who lives in a remote village in Neno, Malawi, about five hours to walk to the nearest hospital. Because of that, most of her eight children have been born at home with little medical supervision. But when it came time to deliver the newest addition to the family this past April, Banda and her family decided to go to Lisungwi Hospital, a Partners In Health-supported facility with a full maternity ward.

The decision may have saved her life.

While in transit, Banda went into labor and had to deliver the baby in the car. During the delivery, however, Banda sensed something was wrong. She began to bleed steadily and couldn’t remove the placenta. By the time Banda and her newborn son made it to the hospital, she had lost a significant amount of blood.

The staff at Lisungwi Hospital ushered Banda into the maternity ward, where trained medical staff treated the retained placenta and gave her a blood transfusion. While resting the next morning with her newborn, Banda had time to reflect on her health, her future, and her children.  “All I could think when I delivered was that I am too old to have more children,” she recalled. “It is becoming dangerous.”

Banda discussed her concerns with hospital staff, who provided information on various family planning options. She decided to have a tubal ligation before she left the hospital. She also received help paying for the car that took her to the hospital, which at the equivalent of $15 was more than the family of farmers could afford.

Banda’s story is not uncommon in Malawi, where one in every 36 women is expected to die during pregnancy or childbirth at some point in her lifetime. One of the most critical precautions a pregnant woman can take is to deliver her baby at a health facility. Not only does Lisungwi Hospital provide a safe space for women across lower Neno to deliver their babies, staff members provide important antenatal and postnatal care, as well as family planning options.

“I am grateful for the medical people who treated me,” Banda said. “My baby is doing fine and is strong, and I am feeling very comfortable.”

Victoria Smith is external relations coordinator for Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo, the sister site of Partners In Health in Malawi.

*The patient's name has been changed.