Saving Mothers

Saving Mothers is a nonprofit committed to improving maternal health worldwide.
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Saving Mothers’ Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, Dr. Erin Gertz, Samantha Smith, RN, and a team of volunteer anesthesiologists, nurses, residents, fellows and medical students performed a week of free gynecologic surgeries in the Dominican Republic earlier this month. Check out the photos below: 


A patient gives Saving Mothers’ Medical Director, Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, a post-operation hug. 


Our team was hard at work. 


Saving Mothers’ Global Health Fellow, Dr. Erin Gertz, interviews a patient seeking care. 


Thank you for all your hard work, SM Team! 


The United Nations released a report today entitled “Motherhood in Childhood” to spotlight the alarming rates of teen pregnancies in the developing world – 7.3 million every year. Of this number, 2 million are to girls 14 and under. Young girls can suffer harmful physical consequences from births their bodies have not yet developed to handle, not to mention the fact that giving birth and caring for a child often puts an end to their educations. The report urges governments to prioritize ending teen motherhood by increasing funding and working to change societal norms that place blame on young women for becoming pregnant.

In October, Saving Mothers’ Jessica Oliveira and Valerie Gruhn worked in Lake Atitlan to expand our programs in Guatemala. Here are some highlights of their work: 

1) Meet Concepcion Mendoza, Saving Mothers’ first full-time on-the-ground staff starting 2014. 


2) Home prenatal visits with Juana, a traditional birth attendant (comadrona)


3) SM’s team gave a lecture on family planning to health educators and auxiliary nurses at our partner clinic. 


4) They also distributed over 200 birth kids and taught traditional birth attendants about best birth practices. 


5) Jessica and Valerie attended a home birth with Juana, a comadrona, using the Saving Mothers’ clean birth kit. 


It has been a productive trip and we look forward to implementing a 16-week curriculum for the comadronas in 2014 as well as building our Guatemala programs and partnerships. 

Thanks to all those who helped to make 220 birth kits for our Guatemala trip! 

In case you hadn’t heard, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by Taliban members on her way home from school, was awarded the Children’s Peace Prize today. The Children’s Peace Prize is awarded each year by a Dutch foundation to honor the achievements of an inspirational child activist. Malala has worked tirelessly to promote education for girls all the world over; her strength and bravery are truly inspirational. So exciting to see her recognized for what she has accomplished at such a young age!

Today the Centers for Disease Control released a report  that reveals promising signs with regards to rates of childhood obesity in the US. For the first time in years, there is evidence of a national decline in  childhood obesity. Curbing childhood obesity has been a serious challenge in the US for decades; according to the CDC, preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times as likely as other children to be overweight or obese as adults, making them more likely to develop serious long term health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. The recently published report shows that among low-income preschoolers, obesity rates declined slightly in 19 of 43 states and territories, remained constant in 21 states, and increased slightly in 3 states. 

Still, while it’s exciting to see that some progress is being made, childhood obesity is still a major issue. Approximately 12% of preschoolers are obese (1 in 8) and the numbers are worse for African American and Hispanic children: about 1 in 5 (19%) African American children and 1 in 6 (16%) Hispanic children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese. As First Lady Michelle Obama stated, "While this announcement reflects important progress, we also know that there is tremendous work still to be done to support healthy futures for all our children." 


It seems everyone has been going crazy the past few days over the birth of baby George, Prince of Cambridge. While the birth of a healthy baby boy is certainly cause for excitement, the Huffington Post also ran an article about some serious maternal and infant health issues and provided links for how you can get involved. The list includes maternal death, fistula, death from preventable disease, and transmission of HIV from mother to child at birth. It’s a somber reminder that while the birth of a new baby should be cause for nothing but joy, this isn’t the case for many women around the world. Take a look at the article and see if there are some ways you might want to get involved in improving maternal health today!

Last week, Remy Wamala Kasule - a senior Ugandan parliament employee - died in childbirth at the International Hospital Kampala (IHK). Ms. Kasule was 36 and a mother of four. The reports are harrowing- that Ms. Kasule requested a c-section and was denied; that she began to hemorrhage; that she was rushed into surgery after she had fallen into a coma; that the hospital failed to give her enough blood. Though the hospital has denied that it was reckless, Parliamentary officials believe otherwise. It is a terrible tragedy, a death that never should have happened. It is also a reminder to us at Saving Mothers of why we do the work that we do and a reminder of how far we have yet to go. 

If you’d like to read more about Ms. Kasule, this article contains some information, as does this one.

 Just last week, “Around the Globe for Women’s Health: A practical guide for the health care provider" was released. The book was edited by Saving Mothers’ Medical Director Taraneh Shirazian, with contributions by our Global Health Fellow Erin Gertz and  President Nichole Young-Lin.* It’s a great example of what Saving Mothers staff has been doing to prepare health care providers for work in the field and we hope you’ll head over to Amazon to check it out! In addition, Taraneh was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about her background and the impetus for her involvement with Saving Mothers and "Around the Globe for Women’s Health." Enjoy!
1: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get interested in medicine, specifically women’s health?
I am a practicing faculty ob/gyn at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York city, and the Director of Global Health for the Department. I got interested in medicine as a high school student volunteering in the women and infant’s ward at my local hospital and specifically interested in women’s health when I developed a community outreach program at Brown as a college student. I called this programThe Interpreter’s Aide Program and it addressed the lack of interpretation services present at Rhode Island Hospital at that time, and the issues underserved women in the community faced trying to negotiate cross-cultural medical concerns while trying to obtain good health.

2: How did you become involved with Saving Mothers? Can you tell us about the work you do for the organization?
I started the organization with Nichole Young-Lin in 2009 and currently serve as the Medical Director. In that capacity, I oversee and develop all of our medical and community outreach programs. We currently have women’s health programs multiple countries as well as an obesity and pregnancy program here in the US.

3: Can you talk a little about “Around the Globe for Women’s Health”? Where did you get the idea to work on this project? How long did it take you and what was the process like? Who do you see as the intended audience?
I am excited about the handbook “Around the Globe for Women’s Health” because it is intended to fill a void in preparing women’s health providers for work abroad.  I was approached by the Springer book publishing company  at the national Ob/Gyn meeting  a few years ago and asked to serve as the editor of this handbook. The process has taken quite a while, we’ve had multiple contributing authors with experience in Global health write chapters for the book. The book covers everything from maternal mortality to anesthesia care and is meant to prepare volunteers for the ethical and cultural challenges they will face as women’s health providers in underserved areas. The intended audience is nurses, midwives, medical students, physicians and really anyone interested in Global women’s health care and the issues involved in working abroad.

4: What are the changes in maternal health practices you hope to see over the next 5-10 years? Do you think such changes are realistic?
The biggest change I hope to see is a sharp decline in the maternal mortality rate. Too many women die in labor and delivery around the world. This is really a human right’s violation and is completely unacceptable. Saving Mothers has been trying to do its part to develop programs that will improve care provided for women and make a dent in the staggering death rates facing women in many low-resource areas.
*Proceeds from sales of this book will not go to Saving Mothers

Saving Mothers continues to motivate, interest, and educate pregnant women on healthy lifestyle choices through our Lifestyle Modification Program.

Held at Mount Sinai’s OB/GYN clinic, this innovative program encourages overweight women, who at greater risk for operative deliveries and pregnancy-related diseases, to learn to make smarter and healthier decisions through fun and unique educational programming.

This time around, in an effort to highlight the importance of regular exercise, volunteers from Boston-based BOLLYX Fitness offered free dance classes for our pregnant mothers. This Bollywood-inspired dance-fitness class focuses on cardio exercise and isometric strength-training. Plus, it teaches patients that you can break a sweat and have fun at the same time!  

BOLLYX co-founder Minal Mehta: “It was a thrill to bring a new cultural experience and promote healthy habits and fitness to the patients in the [Saving Mothers] LMP.  Bollywood is all about expressing your inner joy, and it was rewarding to see the program participants’ faces light up to the music and dance.”

Saving Mothers President Nichole Young-Lin and BOLLYX Co-Founder Minal Mehta pointing us in the right direction.

Thank you to BOLLYX and all of our program volunteers for helping our pregnant women stay healthy and happy during this special time in their lives!

For more info on BOLLYX, click here.

For more info or to make a donation to Saving Mothers, please click here.