What Does Mother’s Day Mean if You Don’t Have Access to Maternal Care?

As Mother’s Day approaches and I see more and more advertising, ecards, and media I can’t help but stop and ponder the many complicated facets of Mother’s Day. For women in the US, Mother’s Day is often about getting that perfect Hallmark card from your family or being treated to breakfast in bed. But for women in the developing world, celebrating motherhood through such a simple holiday is not even a possibility.

Every minute a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth—and overwhelmingly these women live in less developed countries. Not so long ago, even in the US, childbirth was dangerous. My own mother lost her first child—and almost her own life—in the mid-twentieth century. I know she carried that trauma with her through four other successful pregnancies. Three decades later, at a top teaching hospital in the US, my first labor lasted more than 60 hours, resulting in an emergency C-section. Had I not had access to some of the top care in the world, neither my son, nor I, would have survived.

I started working in reproductive health in 1973—first in the US, then abroad, and I have dedicated much of my career to trying to improve women’s access to reproductive health care. Despite all I have seen, I am still deeply moved by the stories that come across my desk. Recently, one of our interns at Pathfinder International traveled to Bangladesh to document our maternal care work. His powerful three-minute video captures the story of Ruma, a 19-year-old Bangladeshi woman pregnant with her first child.

Imagine living in a one-room shanty with your husband and not having any knowledge about pregnancy or childbirth—I can only begin to fathom what that must be like. Luckily, Ruma received the care and information she needed and delivered a healthy baby girl just a few weeks ago. She also received family planning information and guidance—a key step to ensuring she and her baby continue on a path to healthy future.

We need more women with experiences like Ruma. For those passionate about women’s reproductive health, we must take more action to improve maternal care and family planning in the developing world. Every woman, no matter where she lives, deserves access to quality health care.

If you believe, as I do, that reproductive health care is a basic human right, join me in taking action to ask President Obama to increase funding for international reproductive health care. Together we can help change the lives of more women like Ruma by giving them access to quality reproductive health, family planning, and maternal care services. I’d also be interested to hear what others have experienced, both in the US and abroad. Share your stories and stand with Pathfinder this Mother’s Day as we advocate for zero tolerance for maternal mortality!

  - Linda Suttenfield, MPH

With more than two decades of experience in international health, Linda Suttenfield has produced a number of award-winning publications including Courageous Pioneers. She co-authored one of the leading texts on the management of family planning programs, used widely by professionals and public health graduate programs. Linda served as the Deputy Director and Medical Programs Administrator for the International Rescue Committee in Bangkok, Thailand, where she directed the planning and daily operation of programs providing medical, educational, and family re-unification services to Southeast Asian refugees in Thailand. She also was the clinic manager for two family planning clinics in Maine and started her career in reproductive health working for as a clinical assistant for Planned Parenthood.

(This blog is posted on behalf of Linda Suttenfield, Director of Communications for Pathfinder International.)


Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for this information.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Alicia, for Sharing this!

Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun6 years ago

Thank you for posting

David M.
Eva Daniher7 years ago

Above petition is closed

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

Thank you.

Dana W.
Dana W7 years ago

i was fortunate enough to have access to healthcare during my 2 pregnancies and the money to pay for it. We musn't forget that ignorance and lack of access to care exists in the U.S. as well as third world countries.

Morgan P.
Morgan P.7 years ago

I am totally disgusted at your article.

My mother, too, lost a child before me. That was was an accident. She then had an abortion after having me and that pregnancy (also known as child) haunts her to this day. (every day of her life, she told me..)

I cannot even fathom how selfish and ridiculous it would be to think to provide facilities to allow (and even encourage) these young girls to have abortions (terminate the lives of the babies inside them) and NOT put up hospitals where they could actually HAVE their children in a safe, secure, and sanitary facility w/ good doctors.

How terrible. And what in the world gives the US the right to go over there and promote what happens to be a politically popular right here currently- to have an abortion?

If you hear anything at all that I say hear this: Just take a look at pictures of the development of a fetus (which is Latin for "unborn baby," by the way) I mean real photographs. None of these lame "pro-choice" half-sketches. You just attempt to tell me that is not a human being.

I am not against human rights. I am standing up for those who are the weakest most vulnerable humans.
Isn't that what the US is really about?? Justice for those who have none? Defense of the weak, the poor, the old, the young and the disabled (and everyone else?)

Please think about it.

Katherine T.
Katherine T8 years ago

Im not a mother of humans, but I have lots of pets, and i think every mother needs to be taken care of!

Viviane B.
Past Member 8 years ago

Love my daughter, every woman has a blessed right to have children but some restrictions in this time of overpopulation is needed. Birthcontrole is essential or we will destroy nature... people build, eat and pollute and a balance needs to be kept or overpopulation will be our downfall. Some parts of China already alow a maximum of 2 children in one family... they already know it's the only way to deal with it... sadly it had to come to this.

Joan for Peace
Joan for Peace8 years ago

in this day and with the world as it is, ok, may get some flack but birth control i important. the joy of motherhood is something i would not deny anyone, but, have you ever noticed that the poorer people of the world and our nation as well have the most children. overpopulation is not just an animal problem, i have one daughter by birth. i have several step children and some kids that just call me mom because i have tried to be there for them. all these are now grown, there are so many children out there that arent loved and cared for, it should be easier to adopt, regulations are important but people that have love to give and want to share what they have should not be stopped because of a lot of red tape and paperwork. the world is full of people and animals that need loving homes, sometimes those we just take the time to love and show understanding to can be the most loyal of children.