Imagine you are about to give birth and you have no ride to the hospital. So you walk five, 10, even 20 miles in labor. Once you arrive, you find that there is no electricity to power equipment, no featal monitor, not even a lamp to light up a room. You look for help, but there is no trained healthcare provider to offer assistance. Sadly, this is the stark reality for many mothers and mothers-to-be in the developing world.
More than 300,000 women die in childbirth every year. That’s one woman every two minutes. And I could have been one of them.
While the majority of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, the United States is one of just 13 countries with a rising maternal mortality rate. Sadly, it can be just as challenging for some expecting mothers to access appropriate and timely care here as in less affluent countries, and the repercussions can be deadly.
After I gave birth to my daughter in New York City in 2003, I started to haemorrhage. Postpartum haemorrhage, or PPH, is a leading cause of maternal death, but I was lucky that I was in a birthing centre in a hospital and had a team of skilled providers, including a doula, midwife and ObGyn, who managed the situation seamlessly. Before enduring my own complication, I had no idea that women all over the world die every day because they don’t have access to basic or emergency obstetric care, and up to 98% of these deaths are preventable. I knew I had to do something.
I became a global maternal health advocate that day, and in 2010, I founded Every Mother Counts. Access to maternity care before, during, and after pregnancy is essential to ensuring that moms and babies have the best chance of survival. And keeping our mothers and babies safe is something that should be a priority for everyone; it truly touches each of us.
Last year, we introduced the Orange Rose as a symbol of maternal health; it represents a beautiful, vibrant and strong life, like that of a mother who has been supported through her pregnancy and in childbirth. It is a powerful reminder that safer motherhood is possible.
To ensure that possibility for as many families as we can, we raise funds and invest them in proven solutions. We currently have 11 grantee partners in eight countries: Guatemala, Haiti, Uganda, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and, yes, the United States. Our partners make pregnancy and childbirth safer by ensuring quality services and appropriate care to women who would not otherwise be eligible for or know how to seek it. Since our first investment in 2012, we have helped impact more than 600,000 lives.
My mission is that each of us experiences pregnancy, childbirth, and the first months of our babies’ lives in good health.
We support training initiatives such as, Midwives for Haiti, and Corazon del Agua in Guatemala City, which are ensuring that there are more skilled birth providers to care for women and girls. We also support initiatives like Saving Mothers Giving Life, where we partner with Baylor Uganda to provide transportation vouchers that help women access prenatal, delivery services, and postpartum care. And, we donate supplies so that healthcare providers can give quality care to the women who do make it to see them. One of our grantee partners is We Care Solar, founded by Dr. Laura Stachel who, along with her husband who is a solar engineer, developed solar suitcases that provide electricity for clinics in remote areas. Now, nurses and midwives there are better able to do their jobs.
This Mother’s Day, take two minutes to consider your life without your mother. Or consider the mother you always wanted or strive to be, or the one your sister, niece, cousin, neighbour, daughter or granddaughter is or might someday become. My mission is that all of you, that each of us experiences pregnancy, childbirth, and the first months of our babies’ lives in good health.