Supermodel uses debut film to push maternal health

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When Christy Turlington Burns began to hemorrhage soon after the birth of her first child six years ago, she didn't think it was such a big deal.

But when she learned that hemorrhage is a leading cause of maternal death and that hundreds of thousands of women die in childbirth every year, the 41-year-old supermodel said she felt compelled to do something about it.

On Saturday she makes her directorial debut at New York's Tribeca Film Festival with "No Woman, No Cry," a documentary designed to raise awareness and funding so that the number of maternal deaths are reduced.

"I had a sort of experience that was a little bit of a survivor's guilt," said Turlington Burns, who is an advocate for maternal health for humanitarian group CARE. "I was fortunate, but think of all the women around the world who aren't.

"I had a complication, which I honestly didn't think of as such a big deal at the time. I was in a place where I was really well-supported," she told Reuters. "What happens when you are that much further from the care that you may need?"

After visiting Peru with CARE after the birth of her second child, Turlington Burns, who is married to actor and filmmaker Ed Burns, decided to make a documentary on the issue.

The Peruvian community she visited succeeded in reducing maternal deaths, but "hundreds of thousands of women are dying every year, and 90 percent of those deaths are preventable," she said.

According to the World Health Organization, the main causes of deaths related to childbirth are hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labor.

Turlington Burns spent two years making her self-financed film, which tells stories about childbirth in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the United States.

She said the 60-minute documentary will allow viewers to "put their feet in the shoes of somebody else whom they might not think they have anything in common with. ... Certainly birth and pregnancy are one of those things in life that can connect people."

To coincide with the world premiere of her film, Turlington Burns is launching to raise awareness and funding to reduce maternal deaths.

"We should be doing a better job," she said.

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