maternal health


As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Lauren Bloomstein had been taking care of other people’s babies for years. Finally, at 33, she was expecting one of her own. The prospect of becoming a mother made her giddy, her husband Larry recalled recently— “the happiest and most alive I’d ever seen her.”

Other than some nausea in her first trimester, the pregnancy went smoothly. Lauren was “tired in the beginning, achy in the end,” said Jackie Ennis, her best friend since high school, who talked to her at least once a day. “She gained what she’s supposed to. She looked great, she felt good, she worked as much as she could” — at least three 12-hour shifts a week until late into her ninth month. Larry, a doctor, helped monitor her blood pressure at home, and all was normal.

On her days off she got organized, picking out strollers and car seats, stocking up on diapers and onesies. After one last pre-baby vacation to the Caribbean, she and Larry went hunting for their forever home, settling on a brick colonial with black shutters and a big yard in Moorestown, N.J., not far from his new job as an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Camden. Lauren wanted the baby’s gender to be a surprise, so when she set up the nursery she left the walls unpainted — she figured she’d have plenty of time to choose colors later. Despite all she knew about what could go wrong, she seemed untroubled by the normal expectant-mom anxieties. Her only real worry was going into labor prematurely. “You have to stay in there at least until 32 weeks,” she would tell her belly. “I see how the babies do before 32. Just don’t come out too soon.”

When she reached 39 weeks and six days — Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 — Larry and Lauren drove to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, the hospital where the two of them had met in 2004 and where she’d spent virtually her entire career. If anyone would watch out for her and her baby, Lauren figured, it would be the doctors and nurses she worked with on a daily basis. She was especially fond of her obstetrician/gynecologist, who had trained as a resident at Monmouth at the same time as Larry. Lauren wasn’t having contractions, but she and the ob/gyn agreed to schedule an induction of labor — he was on call that weekend and would be sure to handle the delivery himself.

Inductions often go slowly, and Lauren’s labor stretched well into the next day. Ennis talked to her on the phone several times: “She said she was feeling okay, she was just really uncomfortable.” At one point, Lauren was overcome by a sudden, sharp pain in her back near her kidneys or liver, but the nurses bumped up her epidural and the stabbing stopped.

Inductions have been associated with higher cesarean-section rates, but Lauren progressed well enough to deliver vaginally. On Saturday, Oct. 1, at 6:49 p.m., 23 hours after she checked into the hospital, Hailey Anne Bloomstein was born, weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Larry and Lauren’s family had been camped out in the waiting room; now they swarmed into the delivery area to ooh and aah, marveling at how Lauren seemed to glow.

Larry floated around on his own cloud of euphoria, phone camera in hand. In one 35-second video, Lauren holds their daughter on her chest, stroking her cheek with a practiced touch. Hailey is bundled in hospital-issued pastels and flannel, unusually alert for a newborn; she studies her mother’s face as if trying to make sense of a mystery that will never be solved. The delivery room staff bustles in the background in the low-key way of people who believe everything has gone exactly as it’s supposed to.

Then Lauren looks directly at the camera, her eyes brimming.

Twenty hours later, she was dead.

Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger
Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds
As the Republican-led state legislature has slashed funding to reproductive healthcare clinics, the maternal mortality rate doubled over just a two-year period
By Molly Redden

Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Just let that sink in.

Trump has halted funds to the UN’s maternal health fund because of its stance on abortion

  • President Donald Trump has dealt yet another devastating blow to reproductive health worldwide.Monday night, his administration announced the United States would stop contributions to a United Nations fund for family planning, maternal care and children’s health — known as UNFPA — in more than 155 countries.
  • But despite the good UNFPA may do for millions of women, families and children across the globe, Trump and his cohorts just can’t get past the fund’s pesky stance on abortion

  • According to the Guardian, the state department explained in a letter that it was halting the country’s funds because UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” Read more. (4/4/2017 11:32 AM)
Five Must-Know Facts About the ACA Repeal Bill
One provision would stop Planned Parenthood, and only Planned Parenthood, from getting reimbursed for providing essential services to patients by Medicaid.

There’s NO comparison. Plus, in an effort to cater to the most extreme members of the GOP, they’re willing to gut these services to get this dangerous ACA repeal that defunds Planned Parenthood passed:

  • Outpatient care without a hospital admission, known as ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including counseling and psychotherapy
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, which help people with injuries and disabilities to recover
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive care, wellness services, and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care for children

Trump’s “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” goes farther than Global Gag Rule

  • Under the guise of “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” Trump’s newly renamed version of the Mexico City Policy will reportedly offer nearly $9 billion in funding to health care organizations around the world, provided those organizations don’t offer abortion services.
  • “The pro-life policy will apply to global health assistance funding for international health programs, such as those for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security and family planning and reproductive health,” an unnamed White House source allegedly told the Christian Broadcasting Network, which reported that the State Department would announce the policy Monday.
  • The policy is a rebrand of what has historically been referred to as the Global Gag Rule. Read more (5/15/17)

Photo by Martina Bacigalupo 

The medical staff saw that Chantal was in danger of uterine rupture, so she was immediately prepared for a Caesarean section. Nurses stood by to assist, and the midwife prepares to receive the baby. See more of these photos, a video, and read first-hand stories from MSF staff about trying to save women with complicated deliveries at Because Tomorrow Needs Her:

During a special baptism, Pope Francis made headlines when he urged mothers to feed their hungry infants, sending a global – and lifesaving – message in support of public breastfeeding. In fact, every year an estimated 800,000 children under five die because of poor breastfeeding practices, a statistic that rarely gets in the news. 

Read the Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog to learn more and share your thoughts on what can motivate media, politicians and celebrities to provide leadership on this topic.

Photo by Martina Bacigalupo

“I’m a little frightened, but I know they are going to make me better.” Yvonne is comforted by a nurse at MSF’s Urumuri center before she goes to the operating room for fistula repair surgery in Gitega, Burundi. Read about the devastating impact of fistulas & how MSF works to prevent and repair them in Because Tomorrow Needs Her:

May 1-7 is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

As if having a new baby isn’t hard enough, 

1 in 7 mothers will experience postpartum depression or anxiety

The good news is -  it is not forever, and you are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing pregnancy or parenting mental health distress, please follow the links below for help:

Internationally: or call 1-800-944-4PPD

Thank you to POEM Ohio for the resources:

Please share.


“Midwives are the unsung heroes of maternal and newborn health. They can prevent about two thirds of deaths among women and newborns. And midwives deliver much more than babies: They are the connective tissue for communities, helping women and girls care for their health, from family planning all the way through the postpartum period.”

––United Nations Population Fund

Learn more about the State of the World’s Midwifery, and stand up for women’s health!

Photos: Jhpiego/Kate Holt