Kimenua Ngoie has been at the Katuba Reference Hospital in Lubumbashi, Congo, for four months since losing her first baby in a complicated cesarean section.
Though Ngoie is now healthy enough to be discharged, she has been effectively imprisoned because she cannot pay.
Her bill stands at 360 US dollars.
Such detentions are not unusual, in Congo, across much of Africa or in places ranging from the Philippines to Bolivia.
An Associated Press investigation found that only one of more than 20 hospitals visited in the copper-mining metropolis of Lubumbashi did not routinely imprison patients. Administrators, doctors and nurses openly discuss it, and the patients are held in plain sight.
Though government officials condemn the illegal practice, a Ministry of Health official noted that "health officials cannot be everywhere."
For the hospitals, holding patients is mostly an act of financial desperation. Most lack basic drugs, running water and regular electricity. Bed shortages are often so severe that two patients must squeeze onto a single mattress. At the Katuba Reference Hospital, sterilizing surgical tools means placing them in a pot of boiling water.