7 Disruptive Ways to Celebrate Mothers’ Day

It’s about time that we looked at Mothers Day expansively and rocked the boat. Lots of positive vibes could be set in motion. Some of my thoughts:

1.     Press for action and donate to organizations devoted to preventing unnecessary maternal deaths around the world and in the United States.

 Every Mother Counts is worthy of your donation, as are numerous other organizations, including Samahope, WeActx, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, Partners in Health, and undoubtedly many more. India and Nigeria account for more than one-third of the world’s reported maternal deaths, but maternal deaths are far too high in many countries and are rising in the United States.

Expedited training of skilled birth attendants, access to emergency obstetrical care, ultrasound, promotion of prenatal care, and access to safe abortion are urgently needed. According to the World Health Organizations, the major complications that account for 80% of all maternal deaths are:severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth); infections (usually after childbirth); high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia); and unsafe abortion.

In the United States, maternal death rates are rising. Efforts to lower maternal deaths need to be comprehensive and target risk factors and environmental barriers to care. State differences, shown here, are striking. Disparities by race and class are also important. In the United States, since 2011, the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011 has been floating around Washington. It would establish accountability, fight maternal health disparities, and combat severe maternal complications. Ask your representative to co-sponsor the bill and get it through.

2.     Buy a copy of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves for your mom or a friend’s mom.

This book, compared to the landmark Our Bodies, Ourselves, looks like it could radically inform and transform views on transgender people. I have seen excerpts and I am very impressed. The Washington Post review is extremely positive. Let’s not let transgender equality lag behind. Think outside of the box: don’t forget that trans moms are out there.

3. Press your elected officials for a national long-term care policy for our moms and dads.

Please, don’t turn the page here. The safety net is failing our aging moms—and dads for that matter—and yes the population is getting older. Think about it: are you going to be able to support your parents? Will they be able to support themselves? (I won’t bore you with the obvious here.) We need a comprehensive, national long term care policy.

Older Women’s League National Mothers Day Report 2014, released Friday, points out:

“The American public still lacks understanding about long-term care; where it occurs, how to plan for it, and why comprehensive, thoughtful, and rational long-term care policy is of importance to all Americans.” 

The Report can help you get up to speed on how we could create and sustain a long-term care system that permits Americans to remain financially solvent, independent, and with a decent quality of life.

4.     Move beyond thinking about mother’s day with a narrow compass. Single moms, lesbian, gay, and transgender moms, and moms with HIV, are just some of the groups overlooked in traditional mother’s day celebrations. Shake up the usual mother’s day celebrations by including them.

 5.     Donate or volunteer to stop restrictions to abortion access in the United States and around the world. Every pregnant woman cannot go through a pregnancy.

A recent article by @irincarmon addressed the end of abortion access in the South. Of course, we know that this is far from the only restriction out there. Consider donating to abortion access projects. Here are some ideas: the National Network of Abortion Funds  A few others that you might want to consider are listed here: Texas , North Carolina, and in Kansas, the SouthWinds Women’s Center, where George Tiller worked.

Globally, access to safe abortion –all too often– does not exist. I addressed the outrageous roadblocks that Beatriz faced in El Salvador last year in getting access to abortion. Her story is emblematic of countries that have been firmly opposed to abortion as a basic human right. Donate to the groups linked to above, which can save women’s lives.

6.     Keep the pressure up to #bringbackour girls every day.

Take the pressure to your elected officials, to twitter, to Facebook. Stay informed. I wish I had a solution that would bring these girls back. If you have ideas, please put them in the comments.

7.     Make a yearlong commitment to the fight for equity and women’s health by volunteering in campaigns or donating what you can afford. Many organizations are happy to get donations as small as $5 a month.


Hope that you take time to comment below!

 …and now for a moment of shameless self promotion! There’s been a hiatus on PatientPOV. Writing about ways to disrupt healthcare, end inequality, and build social change is my first love, but I cannot afford to do work like this without $ support. Contact me @lauranewmanny for paid writing opportunities or support this blog with a Paypal donation above.


On Mother’s Day, Invest in Maternal Health

Mother’s Day is usually a time for celebration in the United States, but celebrating it in a culture that devalues women, women’s health, and sets back the clock on Roe v. Wade are reasons to take stock, take a stand– not to smile and sit quietly.

Earlier this week, I attended a premiere of Christie Turlington’s movie, No Woman No Cry, which shows the hard public health work to improve maternal health globally.  See it. It will be on this weekend on Oprah Winfrey Network on Saturday,May 7th,  9:30 PM EST.

Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in the developing world.

Statistics on maternal death and access to care among poor and minority women in the United States are staggering. The maternal death rate for black women in New York City is especially astounding. 2008 statistics reveal:

  • a maternal death rate for black women of 79 per 100,000 live births for black women, compared to 10 white maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

These numbers ought to be embarrassing for a city like New York.

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to leave office with a decent record in public health, he should make improving maternal health a priority and invest dollars in restoring nurse midwifery programs in the City’s public hospitals. Sure you can tell a woman not to eat salt or drink sugary beverages. Obesity and diabetes make for trouble in pregnancy and labor. Prenatal care is paramount. These programs are valuable, but alone, they will not resolve these statistics. Resources are desperately needed at the time of labor and delivery.

Guidance for Quality Care

Cesarean section rates are abysmal in the United States, and cesarean sections have been associated with maternal deaths. Without concerted efforts to change practice patterns, these statistics won’t change. Other startling statistics, buried in federal reports, but extracted in a Childbirth Connection fact sheet are as follows:

  • The 2009 cesarean section rate of 32.9 percent set a record nationally. It marks the 13th consecutive year of increase, and a record level national rate;
  • Variation in practice patterns across the United States is pronounced, with New Mexico having the lowest cesarean section rate of 22.8 percent, Louisiana a high of 39.6 percent, and 48 percent in Puerto Rico;
  • Vaginal births after cesarean (VBAC) are declining, not improving. In 1997, vaginal births after cesarean sections accounted for 35.3 percent; in 2006, the VBAC rate was 9.7 percent.

Maternal death review boards may help inform quality care, if they are not used to punish overworked workers. Texas is considering a bill. If you know how Boards have helped or hindered, say so in the comments here.

Back High-Quality Care

Childbirth Connection, formerly the Maternity Center Association in New York City, has a wealth of information and expertise on evidence-based, quality maternity care. Maternal health advocates are working hard in the developing world, where travel for care, nutrition, and access to quality maternal programs in a safe setting are especially daunting.

Honor the fine public health work of groups, such as Partners in Health and Save the Children, as well as your local workers, striving to improve these statistics with limited resources.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!