The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project

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The United States ranks behind at least 39 other nations in maternal mortality rates according to a recent study published in The Lancet. In 2008, the United States reported 17 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, up from 7.5 per 100,000 in 1982.

The maternal death rate in California tripled between 1996 and 2006.

The Healthy People 2020 goal is that no more than four maternal deaths occur per 100,000 births.

The maternal death rate for African American women in New York City was an incredibly high 79 per 100,000 births in 2008.

African American women in the United States have 4 times the risk of dying from childbirth or childbirth related complications. Hispanic women in the United States, similarly, are 1.6 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

The Centers for Disease Control estimated in 1998 that the US maternal death rate is actually 1.3 to three times that reported in vital statistics records because of underreporting of such deaths.

Reporting of maternal deaths in the United States is done via an honor system. There are no statutes providing for penalties for misreporting or failing to report maternal deaths.

Not all of the fifty states have yet agreed to use the US Standard Death Certificate designed by the Centers for Disease Control to register maternal deaths more accurately. Such inconsistency contributes to under-reporting.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than half of the reported maternal deaths in the United States could have been prevented by early diagnosis and treatment.

Amnesty International Report- Deadly Delivery

Maternal Mortality Fact Sheet

The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project is a national effort developed to draw public attention to the current maternal death rates, as well as to the gross under reporting of maternal deaths in the United States, and to honor those women who have died of pregnancy-related causes since 1982.

The Project is the vision of Ina May Gaskin, midwifery pioneer and author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth , the classic Spiritual Midwifery , and Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta .

The Quilt

The quilt is made up of individually designed blocks; each one devoted to a woman in the U.S. who has died of pregnancy-related causes since 1982. One quilt block is designed and dedicated to each mother’s memory and may mention the date and place of death and the name of the woman. The Safe Motherhood Quilt is the voice for women who can no longer speak for themselves.

To be honored and remembered on The Safe Motherhood Quilt:

  • The woman died as a result of a complication of pregnancy or birth
  • The woman’s death occurred since 1982
  • The woman died within a calendar year after the end of her pregnancy (documented by an obituary, death certificate, relative’s or witness’ account).

Do you know of a woman’s story you’d like to share? Get more information on how to prepare your quilt block and submit it for inclusion in the Safe Motherhood Quilt.