Nowhere to Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S.

Nowhere to Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S.

More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age in the United States live in "maternity care deserts" — areas lacking a hospital that offers obstetric care, a birth center, or an obstetric provider — while another 4.8 million live in counties where only limited maternity care is available, a report from March of Dimes finds. The report, Nowhere to Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S. (26 pages, PDF), found that nearly eleven hundred counties, or more than a third of all counties in the United States, are considered "maternity care deserts," including more than two hundred classified as urban. The report also found that in 2017 nearly a hundred and fifty thousand babies were born in those counties, and that maternity care deserts have higher poverty rates, higher rates of uninsurance, and lower median household income than counties that provide full access to maternity care. To ensure access to maternity care for all women and address racial/ethnic disparities in maternal mortality rates — which are three times higher among African-American women and 2.5 times higher among American Indian/Alaskan Native women than among white women — the report offers a number of recommendations, including expanding Medicaid eligibility and Medicaid's postpartum coverage period; expanding access to midwifery; providing coverage for telehealth services; and addressing social determinants of health through reforms such as educating providers about implicit bias in healthcare delivery.