Christy Turlington Burns' Empowering Message for Women Everywhere

The model has made maternal health care her mission, inspiring women globally.

ByABC News
October 9, 2014, 7:34 AM

— -- Model Christy Turlington Burns is one of the world’s most recognizable faces, but now she’s reinventing herself off the runway.

Turlington Burns’s new mission for which she’s been called an "ambassador for maternal health" by Melinda Gates, was inspired after a “frightening experience” giving birth to her daughter.

“My daughter Grace, after she was born, I hemorrhaged,” Turlington Burns told ABC News’ Amy Robach. “We're bonding, and she's breast feeding and it's all perfect. Then I started to notice there's a shift of the energy in the room and that there's a little bit of concern. It went from this very empowering experience to a very disempowering, frightening experience.”

Christy Turlington's #GIRLPOWER" series will highlight women and girls who are agents of change in fields ranging from humanitarian and public service to business and the arts.

Shaken by her experience, Turlington Burns realized that the prevalence of postpartum hemorrhage and maternal death was a much bigger story than just her own.

“It started with the birth and the complication. And then trying to understand – Why? What? Why that happened to me? -- was how I came across the global statistics,” she said. “Postpartum hemorrhage is the most common cause of [maternal death], which often times happens after delivery.”

But Turlington Burns learned that 98 percent of all maternal deaths are preventable with appropriate health care.

“I was really excited by the fact that 98 percent were preventable. I thought, ‘How many issues are that you can say that about, really? There’s so much upside to this issue,” she said.

Turlington Burns established Every Mother Counts, a non-profit foundation devoted to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. The foundation provides education and raises funds to provide access to maternal care across the globe to prevent women from becoming a deadly statistic during childbirth.

The statistics are startling: over 287,000 women die every year as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. That’s one woman every two minutes.

“If you live two hours away from care, game over,” she said. “So many women live in rural places -- in the United States, in Africa, in Asia. In Uganda for example, we transport women on the back of motorcycles or bicycles.”

Turlington Burns sat down with ABC News’ Amy Robach for an interview as part of her “#GIRLPOWER” series, which will highlight women and girls who are agents of change in fields ranging from humanitarian and public service to business and the arts.

To Turlington Burns, whose maternal health movement embodies the definition of girl power, girl power means recognizing your individual potential.

"We use [girl power] so much in my house because my daughter is so powerful. And she came into the world powerful. So I feel like girl power to me is potential. It’s like, every girl has that potential. Every human has that potential.”

What does #GIRLPOWER mean to you? Tweet @GMA using the hashtag #GIRLPOWER.

Christy Turlington sat down with ABC News' Amy Robach for an interview as part of her "#GIRLPOWER" series.

Turlington Burns has parlayed her public persona in the world of fashion and cosmetics to encourage all women to take charge of their health and bodies.

“All the aspects of our sort of feminine nature are incredibly powerful. It’s why we have become a threat to men all over the world over time. You know, that ability to give birth,” she said. “I feel like they need to be celebrated, they need to be encouraged and not be shot down.”

Turlington Burns also recognizes the value of support from her family, especially from her husband, actor and filmmaker Ed Burns.

“He said, ‘You have to do this. Go for it,’” Turlington Burns said. “He was an incredible grounding support for our kids. And he continues to be my biggest champion at home. The more that I travel, and the more that I see women who do not have the kind of support, the more grateful I am to him.”