Head of Obstetrics at the University of Papua New Guinea, Professor Glen Mola watches Christy Turlington Burns speak via video at the National Press Club for the Send Hope Charity evening.

Head of Obstetrics at the University of Papua New Guinea, Professor Glen Mola watches Christy Turlington Burns speak via video at the National Press Club for the Send Hope Charity evening. Photo: Melissa Adams

It plays host to politicians, leading scientists and business people, but it's not often a super model drops into the National Press Club.

But Christy Turlington Burns made an appearance - via video - at the Barton watering hole last night to help launch a Canberra-based charity dedicated to helping women in the third world give birth safely.

Send Hope Not Flowers, urges friends of new mothers to make a donation to maternity services for women in developing countries.

Model Christy Turlington attending the Rag & Bone Women's Collection fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on September 7.

Model Christy Turlington attending the Rag & Bone Women's Collection fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on September 7. Photo: Getty Images

Instead of flowers, new mothers receive a card advising them a donation has been made.

Turlington Burns founded the group Every Mother Counts to help reduce global maternal mortality.

''What I am excited about with this event tonight is that Send Hope Not Flowers inspires other people to get involved - to contribute what they have to end these senseless deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth,'' she said last night.

Send Hope co-founder Emma Macdonald, a Canberra Times journalist, said she had been surprised to receive an email of support from Turlington Burns.

''I remember checking the name of the sender and thinking to myself, 'My God, wouldn't it be annoying to have to go through life with the name Christy Turlington, given that's the name of one of the world's most successful supermodels'.

''After a few seconds, I came to my senses and realised they were one and the same.''

Send Hope Not Flowers directs donations to partner organisations working in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands to prevent women dying during childbirth.

Projects include training midwives or local village women to become birth attendants or supplying basic supplies to assist with birth.

Guests at the launch included many doctors who were in Canberra to attend the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Annual Scientific Meeting.

Professor Glen Mola, of the General Hospital said two-thirds of pregnant women in Papua New Guinea gave birth without a properly trained attendant, such as a midwife.

''Your mum, your sister, your village sort of person can't help you at all if you start bleeding, or you get infected or the baby gets stuck or is coming in the wrong position,'' Professor Mola said.

''When things go wrong that person can't do anything except pray really.''

The lifetime risk of pregnancy-associated death in Papua New Guinea was one in 20.

In Australia it is one in 10,000 pregnancies.