Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

Preventing Maternal Deaths: An Interview with Ina May Gaskin June 23, 2009

Today an avid reader sent me a link to a few short interviews with the great Ina May Gaskin conducted by Mindful Mama Magazine about a very sad, but very real phenomenon: maternal deaths in the United States.  I felt that these interviews were so well done that I just had to share them with all of you.


Ina May Gaskin is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and is the founder (along with her husband) and director of The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee.  She is the author of Spiritual Midwifery (1975) and Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth (2003), two incredible books that every woman who has ever had a child, is pregnant, or is thinking about becoming pregnant should read!!  


Spiritual Midwifery is THE book that changed my life, my outlook on the birth process, and my career goals.  Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is similar in style to Spiritual Midwifery, but has a much broader appeal and a more modern style.  Ina May has been a home birth midwife for more than 35 years and is the founder of the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, a national effort developed to draw public attention to the current maternal death rate, as well as to the gross underreporting of maternal deaths in the United States, and to honor those women who have died of pregnancy-related causes since 1982.
These interview clips are part of Rites of Passage, an exclusive video series and art/photo/ essay contest hosted by Mindful Mama Magazine that engages mothers across the country in a dialogue about childbirth and the transformation of new motherhood.  During the interview Gaskin speaks to the disturbing reality that 1) the United States lacks of a comprehensive, confidential system of ascertainment of maternal death designed to record and analyze every maternal death that occurs in the United States and 2) not all 50 states have questions on their death certificates that specifically ask about a woman’s pregnancy status (i.e. was she pregnant, postpartum, or within 1 year of delivering a baby) making our countries maternal mortality rates based solely on vital statistics data.  (And as an registered nurse who has had to fill out death certificates a time or two as a medical-surgical nurse I can attest to the truth of this!)  In reality the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that our current maternal mortality rate is actually an underestimate and that our true maternal mortality rate could be as much as 3 TIMES HIGHER related to misclassification of the number of deaths that are truly happening. 


Please also see my post: Super Comment!: Maternal Death in the U.S., or TOP TEN Ways to Reduce Your Risk For Complications in Pregnancy and Childbirth


So check out these videos and let me know what you think!!














6 Responses to “Preventing Maternal Deaths: An Interview with Ina May Gaskin”

  1. Renee Says:

    Excellent videos. The part about the quilt is so sad. You hear about women dying but very seldom hear the stories.

  2. kangaroo Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these with your many followers. I am honored to be a quilter for this project and want to point you to a few of my blog posts:

    Introducing the Project to my community

    Special Project: AFE Quilt

    Square for Arizona Treasurer’s wife Kerry Martin

    Panel with Eighteen Squares I will be quilting

    Square honoring Susan Goodrich

    • nursingbirth Says:

      kangaroo, thank you so much for linking to your blog posts here. I read every single one and was overcome with emotion. You do such a great service to your community with all the work you do with the FFOM, The Birth Survey, and the SMQP and I bet you don’t hear that enough!! Reading the stories of the women who have squares on the quilt filled me with sadness for their families but more than that, anger and frustration for the way our maternity care system is run in this country!!! The fact that our country has not made ANY improvements in maternal mortality since 1982 is an abomination!! Thank you again, for sharing and doing all the work that you do!

  3. Jennifer Says:

    I agree; very interesting videos, and very sad as well. I think these videos could be helpful in educating the public, although I think it’s unfortunate that Ina May seems to be heavily advocating a government-run public health system as a means of improving care. I don’t think that’s the answer.

    I’m wondering…who puts out the U.S. maternal death rate statistics that Ina May is holding in the first video (the piece of paper)?

    Thanks so much for your detailed, well-researched information — I really enjoy reading your blog, and I can only hope to encounter an L&D nurse like you in the future. I wish they all had your perspective on birth!!

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