Aug. 1, 2023 -- Millions of women in America don’t have adequate access to maternal health care and that number is growing, according to an annual report by the March of Dimes.
“Maternity care deserts are counties where there’s limited or no access to birthing hospitals, birth centers offering obstetric care, or obstetric providers,” the report says. “Areas with low or no access to maternal care affect over 5.6 million women and nearly 350,000 births across the U.S.”
The non-profit organization has released its data on maternity care access since 2018. This was the first March of Dimes report since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the right to abortion last year.
“The data consistently shows that access to maternity care continues to decline, and more resources are needed to make maternal health a priority,” it says.
Since 2018, American hospitals have closed more than 300 birthing units. Hospitals in almost 10% of counties have lost obstetric services, the report says. And the number of “maternity care deserts” has grown by 4%.
"We know that women who don't have prenatal care are three to four times more likely to die compared to women who have prenatal care,” Elizabeth Cherot, MD and CEO and president of March of Dimes, told ABC News. That's the crisis."
Most states have these “deserts,” with most being in the Midwest and South. Almost 90% of rural Alabama women have no maternity care hospitals within 30 minutes of where they live, the report says. More than 46% of counties in Texas are deserts and 20% of women giving birth had "no or inadequate prenatal care."
ABC News reported, “The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with around 700 women dying each year as a result of complications due to pregnancy.”