No Mothers Day: Skip the Presents This Year to Raise Awareness for Maternal Health

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Every 90 seconds, somewhere in the world, a woman dies from a pregnancy-related complication. This isn't just a "third world" problem. The United States currently ranks 50th in the world for maternal health. It is safer to give birth in Bosnia or Kuwait than in California. But what we do here ultimately affects women everywhere. This is a matter of inequality and political will.

When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, my cousin died in a San Francisco delivery room giving birth to her third child. And while both of my pregnancies were high-risk and dangerous, I did not almost die like my sister during childbirth. She lost her baby after, with only the benefit of quickly administered topical anesthesia, she underwent an emergency Caesarian section to save her life. My best friend had to be raced, during labor, to a second hospital in critical care during her life-threatening delivery. Another close friend hemorrhaged so badly she required twelve liters of blood after delivering. I could easily continue this list with stories of people I know intimately.

Pregnancy can be difficult and complicated and giving birth often dangerous and sometimes life threatening. (Something legislators who fancy themselves doctors seem to be in complete ignorance of.) We don't like to talk about these difficulties and dangers in a culture that idealizes and glorifies motherhood and holds women to manic and ridiculous standards for what is "good." The examples I gave above took place in major hospitals where women had the best care available to them. Imagine what it is like for the literally billions of women with none of those resources. The risk of a woman in a developing country dying in these ways is 36 times what it is in a developed country. Me, my sister, my friends, you or a woman you know easily would have died giving birth in these countries. Many do here. Of the estimated 210 million women who become pregnant each year, 20 million will experience life-threatening complications.

For these women and their families, there is no Mother's Day. That's why this year, the maternal health advocacy organization Every Mother Counts is asking you, women and men, to act in solidarity on Mother's Day to raise awareness and help change the lives of millions of women who will otherwise die becoming mothers.

"We hope this campaign will bring more attention to the global issue of maternal mortality because this is an urgent yet solvable problem," explains Christy Turlington Burns, who founded Every Mother Counts.

The cornerstone of their newly launched campaign, "No Mother's Day," is the following Public Service Announcement, directed by her husband, actor and filmmaker Edward Burns:

According the the World Health Organization's Trends in Maternal Mortality Report:

  • Every 90 seconds a woman dies from a pregnancy related death, that's 1,000 women a day
  • 90 percent of these deaths are preventable
  • 99 percent of maternal deaths that took place in 2008 (most recent data from 2010 study) occurred in sub-Saharan Africa (57 percent) and South Asia (30 percent)
  • 50 percent of all maternal deaths take place during the first 48 hours after delivery.
  • Seven million women a year suffer critical complications. For every woman that dies, another 20 experience debilitating and life threatening harm.

If you are interested in participating, you can post this video with the following Facebook status: This Mother's Day, I will disappear. Find out why. "No Mothers Day" (link: http://youtu.be/x0w669fZBH8) or Tweet: No phone calls. No emails. No social media. No gifts. My silence will speak for all mothers. http://j.mp/jdx_ #NoMothersDay @everymomcounts

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