Saving Mothers' Lives

Jun 09, 2009 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Progress is being made to save the lives of mothers and newborns around the world. Still, every minute, a woman dies of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, leaving her baby more likely to die within two years. Most of these deaths could be prevented. Join The Huffington Post and the Mothers Day Every Day campaign in the global movement to call upon world leaders to invest in health workers and strengthen health systems so that every day, everywhere in the world, all women and newborns have access to lifesaving care.

When I had my first child, I remember asking the doctor if I would live. My grandmother had died after giving birth to my mother -- in those days it was a fact of life in Xuzhou, where my family was from. Like most things related to women's bodies and their health, we never spoke about it. But these things stay with you.

Focused as I was on my fear, I never could have fathomed that for every minute I was in labor, somewhere in the world, another woman was dying due to pregnancy-related complications.

Until recently, those women were largely invisible -- their deaths just one of life's sorrows. As Mother's Day approaches, we must talk about what has come to light as a silent global epidemic. By doing so, we can stop one of the great, preventable human tragedies of our time.

Maternal mortality affects families, communities and economies. In fact, many of the brightest minds in development and philanthropy today recognize the correlation between keeping mothers alive, healthy and productive and addressing the root causes of poverty -- from disease, to education to economic development.

So what will it take to save mothers' lives? Many are things American women don't even think about when it comes to giving birth -- such as access to a skilled doctor, nurse or midwife throughout pregnancy; continued care through and beyond childbirth; and basic supplies, like clean water, hygienic IVs and gauze.

Organizations like the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and governments are working hard to provide these necessities, and they need our support. Impacts are already visible at the country level. For example, in Sri Lanka, health care improvements reduced maternal mortality from 520 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 43 per 100,000 in 2005; in Ghana, medical care is now free to pregnant women who use public hospitals; and in Afghanistan, the number of women attended by a skilled health worker increased from six percent in 2002 to nearly 20 percent in 2006.

We can and should be doing more to help. That's why I've joined with women like Sarah Brown, Queen Rania of Jordan and Indra Nooyi to pledge our support and talk to as many people as we can about maternal mortality. Especially now, as political will to fund challenging problems is tested, it is critical that we keep pressure on the world's leaders, and on organizations working in developing countries, to stay focused on saving mothers' lives.

The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and CARE, two organizations at the forefront of global women's health issues, have joined Secretary Donna Shalala and UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and a distinguished group of advocates to promote Mothers Day Every Day, a campaign that raises awareness and advocates for greater U.S. leadership to improve maternal and newborn health globally as part of a global campaign uniting advocates around the world to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Follow the action at learn more, visit

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Mother's Day series by clicking here