SEATTLE, Washington — In 2003, after having some complications while giving birth Christy Turlington, a model and filmmaker, knew she wanted to help expectant mothers everywhere. So, in 2010 Turlington began the nonprofit Every Mother Counts that ensures women worldwide have access to the necessary resources to have a safe and healthy delivery while also preventing unexpected birthing complications. Every Mother Counts works to provide every woman with access to “quality, respectful and equitable maternal care.”
Approximately 303,000 women around the world die every year as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. That equates to about one woman every two minutes. There are eight primary reasons for these deaths: hemorrhaging (27.1%), indirect causes (22%), hypersensitive disorders or eclampsia (14%), sepsis or infection (10.7%), other direct causes (9.6%), unsafe abortion (7.9%), HIV (5.5%) and embolism (3.2%). Many of these complications can be prevented with proper resources and education.
Moreover, 99% of maternal deaths happen in developing countries. Of these deaths, 60% occur in just 10 countries: Uganda, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Many of the roadblocks women face when pregnant or giving birth include disrespectful treatment, discrimination, shortages or harmful practices. Women can be deterred from utilizing services, sometimes denied treatment based on their race, ethnicity, socio-economic or indigenous status and spoken language. Additionally, many cultures have practices that change or mutilate women’s bodies, which can lead to more dangerous or painful pregnancies.
However, the biggest issue women face, especially now with medical resources quickly depleting, is the shortage of supplies and staff trained in maternal emergencies. Outside of supplies and trained professionals, many developing countries also don’t have community-based health facilities. With the proper funding and support from humanitarian organizations, many developing nations can create safer environments for women and expectant mothers.
Every Mother Counts
Every Mother Counts has invested $16.2 million in public education, community engagement and grant fundraising. The organization also implemented 13 programs in six countries, improving the lives of mothers, healthcare providers and children. As of 2020, it has served more than 700,000 people, including women, babies, health workers and community members. With this funding and programs, Every Mother Counts has been able to place mothers at treatment centers, strengthen healthcare forces, facilitate access to resources and advance proven models of care. The organization has also been able to invest about $5.6 million solely into community-based programs.
The nonprofit currently has seven grants partnered with Bangladesh, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Tanzania and the U.S. The grants span from birth attendants and indigenous midwives to clinic access and public policy. Every Mother Counts partnered with the Child Health Emergency Fund to create a medical emergency grant to house pregnant women and children affected by natural disasters. Approximately 61% of maternal deaths occur in places experiencing weather-related disasters, political upheaval and humanitarian crises. The emergency grants fill in the gaps in healthcare systems.
Every Mother Counts has also taken steps during the COVID-19 pandemic to pass legislation to advance maternal health. Nearly one in four hospital stays are related to pregnancies, but as most hospital spaces are filled to fight a pandemic, it can be difficult to find the space for expectant mothers. The MOMMIES Act, MOMMAS Act, Tech to Save Moms Act, BABIES Act and Kira Johnson Act aim to improve access to healthcare, community programs and technology for women stuck in isolation. These acts are currently focused on the U.S. health system, but there is hope to expand these acts for foreign assistance.