Labour at the last mile: Why Haymanot decided to visit a Maternity Waiting Home

Haymanot With Baby.jpg

“I came here and received support to reduce any birth risks including bleeding.” explains 35 year old and new mother Haymanot.

Today, we are speaking to Haymanot and Ataklit at the local maternity waiting home in Yilmana Densa in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. Sitting together in the shaded porch, Haymanot tells us about her experience staying at the maternity waiting home while Ataklit prepares a strong pot of coffee for the afternoon’s coffee ceremony for everyone staying at the home.

Haymanot (left) and Ataklit (right) sit and talk while Ataklit makes coffee. Haymanot carries her baby wrapped on her back while she sleeps.

Haymanot (left) and Ataklit (right) sit and talk while Ataklit makes coffee. Haymanot carries her baby wrapped on her back while she sleeps.

Haymanot has lived in Yilmana Densa her whole life. She lives here with her husband, two older teenage children, and now a healthy one month old daughter. 

Haymanot is recounting her third and most recent birth. “I waited for three weeks and gave birth safely, without a problem.”

Haymanot decided to visit a maternity waiting home – free accommodation adjacent to a health centre where women can await birth. Maternity waiting homes are a lifeline for high-risk pregnant women as they can make the long and enduring trip before labour starts. When the time comes to give birth, she will have access to skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care if needed.

It may have taken several hours for Haymanot to reach her nearest health centre, likely carried on a local stretcher along bumpy dusty roads – a scary and unthinkable notion in the throes of labour.  

She tells us how different her third birth was to the birth of her first two children at home. During her recent antenatal visit, her Health Extension Worker suggested a maternity waiting home would be a viable option for Haymanot to give birth safely and minimise any risks that may arise.

Today, Haymanot is delighted she made the journey before labour as she looks down at her new baby, who she calls “the lucky one.”

SafeHands is currenly implementing a project Maternity Waiting Homes in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Federal Ministry of Health, and Amhara National Regional State Health Bureau. Our project aims to put information into the hands of women, like Haymanot, to make decisions over when and how she wants to give birth. We are doing this by producing an educational film and disseminating key health messages on how maternity waiting homes can save lives.

left to right: Haymanot, Serpik, Ataklit, and Mareye, the local health extension worker   Together they sit and chat with other women staying at the maternity waiting home while Ataklit makes afternoon coffee

left to right: Haymanot, Serpik, Ataklit, and Mareye, the local health extension worker

Together they sit and chat with other women staying at the maternity waiting home while Ataklit makes afternoon coffee

Nancy Durell Mckenna