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August 02, 2016

#BumpDay: Raising awareness about the need for worldwide maternal health care

Women's Health Katie's Baby
Katie_Gagnon_BumpDay Trish English /for PhillyVoice

Katie shows off her 33-week bump walking along the ocean in Longport, New Jersey. With her due date fast approaching, she is in awe of how her body has changed during her pregnancy and is pleased that she is still able to keep up with many of her favorite summer activities down the shore.

As I enter into my 33rd week of pregnancy, there are many things for which I feel grateful. I was able to conceive easily, my pregnancy has been uncomplicated, my baby boy is healthy, and I am under the care of an incredible team of obstetricians, nurses and medical experts. I was reminded recently just how lucky I am when I learned about the second annual #BumpDay.

#BumpDay is designed to raise awareness about the need for maternal health care worldwide. Its partners, International Medical CorpsHeidi Murkoff, author of "What to Expect When You’re Expecting"; the What to Expect Foundation1,000 Days; and the United Nations Foundation’s Universal Access Program, say there is no more pressing global issue affecting our collective future than maternal health.

According to International Medical Corps, more than 800 women die each day from preventable pregnancy-related causes. They say that most maternal deaths would be avoided by access to prenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after delivery. According to the United Nations Foundation’s Universal Access Program, there are 222 million women around the world who lack access to quality family planning services, which have critical implications, including improved maternal and newborn health, reduced poverty, increased economic growth and security, and more sustainable communities. Nearly all maternal deaths happen in developing countries because many women are prevented from care due to poverty, distance, lack of information and inadequate services.

To think that mothers here in the U.S. and around the world have fatal results due to inadequate access to health care during their pregnancies, deliveries and postpartum is heartbreaking and tragic. To know that many of the causes that contribute to these deaths are preventable is maddening.

#BumpDay was brought to my attention by Murkoff. I am a big fan of "What to Expect When You’re Expecting." The book and website have been a constant source of information for my husband and me during my pregnancy. Every Sunday morning we watch a video on the app, which details exactly how our baby boy is developing during that week of pregnancy. “Belly Sunday” is our special weekend ritual and is also educational as we experience my first pregnancy. It is hard to imagine that the medical information that we receive from an app on my phone is more than many women around the world get during their entire pregnancies.

I am guilty of taking for granted the great insurance coverage and access to quality health care that I have. When I discovered I was pregnant, I was able to quickly see my gynecologist in Philadelphia to confirm I was expecting. When I needed an obstetrician in Missouri, where I was living for the first half of my pregnancy, I made a few quick phone calls before having entrée to one of the best practices in the St. Louis area. And when we moved to New Jersey, I did not worry for a moment about finding a great OB/GYN and hospital for my delivery. I have frequent checkups and an incredible medical team at my disposal, even when I was abroad on a family vacation in Ireland. There are millions of pregnant women around the world who wish for the health care I receive. I am no more deserving than they are. Every expecting mother needs maternal health care for the good of themselves, their babies, their families and communities.

In learning about #BumpDay, I discovered charitable organizations that I was previously unfamiliar with, like 1,000 Days, the leading nonprofit organization working in the U.S. and around the world to improve nutrition and ensure women and children have the healthiest first thousand days. The nonprofit partners of #BumpDay are able to do their good work because of the support of financial contributions. Please consider making a donation to 1,000 Days, International Medical Corps and the What to Expect Foundation to further their goals of ensuring more healthy beginnings and healthy futures for babies and mothers around the world.

My weekly readers know that I have shared many photos of my baby bump throughout my pregnancy. Watching my body grow and change, expand and adapt to my first pregnancy has been a wonderful, crazy, beautiful thing to experience. Tomorrow, Aug. 3, I will post a new photo of my baby bump, with the hope of ending preventable child and maternal deaths in my lifetime. I encourage you to join me in raising awareness about maternal health care needs by posting and sharing your own #BumpDay photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Let’s share our stories, raise awareness and work together with the goal of providing health care to all expecting women worldwide.

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