Meet Hellen: A midwife student addressing maternal health care gaps in her community!
Story by Wesley Koskei
Hellen, a midwife student in her final year, grew up in South Sudan and Uganda during their conflicts and saw firsthand what women go through when it comes to pregnancy and labor. From these experiences, she knew becoming a midwife would help her be a changemaker for her community by helping women make informed decisions for their maternal and child care.
In her community, traditional childbirth methods are pretty much the norm. Most pregnant mothers don’t have access to skilled birth attendants, so their only option is to give birth at home. Hellen knows firsthand how important it is for people to have the benefits of having a birth attendant present during childbirth. This is what makes her so good at her job.
On top of being a student at Maridi Health Science Institute (MHSI), she’s a midwife trainee at one of the largest hospitals in the state. She regularly interacts with patients, talking with them about their care, and conducts follow-up visits at their homes after delivery which greatly reduces infections and addresses any potential complications early enough to be treated.
Trained midwives like Hellen are helping to combat the leading causes of maternal and infant death in South Sudan. The infant mortality rate is 1,150 per 100,000 live births, mostly due to postpartum hemorrhages. And while these are preventable and treatable, it is only preventable and treatable with help from a trained midwife or access to a health center or hospital.
A painful memory for Hellen was when an unconscious pregnant woman was wheeled into the labor unit. The woman was going through labor for many hours at home. Once she arrived at the hospital, the nurses realized she was having obstructed labor. Hellen and the other midwives tried their best to save her life, but the mother lost too much blood, and unfortunately, both the mother and baby passed away.
Though she is in her last year of training, Hellen has already impacted her community as a midwife trainee. As a proud student of MHSI, she is grateful that the institute is responsible for training most of the health workers in the region. Just the presence of a birth attendant can be a matter of life or death for a mother in delivery, and with more Hellens, the maternal mortality rate can really change in the country.
Hellen says, “Knowledge is a very powerful tool,” and by communicating and checking in with her patients at the hospital and home, we can help mothers, infants, and families across South Sudan have the strongest start on this next chapter of life.
Just the presence of a birth attendant can be a matter of life or death for a mother during delivery. With more Hellens, the maternal mortality rate can change for the better!