America’s maternity care desert, illustrated in three diagrams

America is already littered with deserts of maternity care. This is a place without a labor department and a hospital practicing his OB/GYN. These deserts are expanding.

According to a new March of Dimes report, the number of U.S. counties that meet the definition of Kea Desert will increase in 2022 compared to 2018.

Nearly 7 million American women of childbearing age now live in counties with limited or no maternity care services, report authors found. One-third of U.S. counties are maternity care deserts, and more than half are classified as rural. And in 2020, he had over 146,000 babies born in those counties.

March of Dimes

Accounting for only about 9% of births, these mothers already have less access to healthcare and are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. They are more likely to live in rural areas where these Kea deserts are concentrated. They live in areas with high tobacco and drug use. They are more likely to deal with high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Black and Native American women are particularly at risk of serious complications and death during pregnancy. , where 1 in 6 black babies are born. They were more likely to receive inadequate prenatal care and had a higher mortality rate than their white or Hispanic peers.

Bar chart titled Maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births by race and ethnicity, 2018-2020.

Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker

Overall, about 900 Americans died from complications related to childbirth in 2020. Another her more than 50,000 women experienced severe pregnancy-related complications. Four of her five of these deaths were from preventable causes. In terms of size and rate, America’s maternal mortality rate overwhelms the problems of other wealthy nations, and these gaps in obstetric care bear much of the blame.

Chart titled

Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker

This is another way that US healthcare is an outlier among its international peers. Also, the growing number of maternity care deserts is driven, at least in part, by the profit-centric nature of America’s health care system, which is unique among wealthy nations.

There are two trends that have caused the decline in access to maternity care. The number of obstetric care providers and hospitals has dwindled and these services have either been phased out or closed entirely. The losses, as I wrote earlier this year, are a direct result of the financial incentives, or rather the incentives, set by the U.S. healthcare system for pregnancy-related care.

Some hospitals try to argue that closing maternity wards is not financially motivated, but labor and delivery services do not benefit them. More than 40% of births in the United States are covered by Medicaid The program’s low reimbursement rate is frequently cited as a reason hospitals have decided to close OB departments.

We also see a general trend toward consolidation and specialization among hospitals. It is usually cheaper to give birth in an obstetrician with a high birth rate than in an area with a declining birth rate. Labor sectors with less activity may enter a downward spiral before closing. Birth rates are declining, departments are becoming harder to staff, and the costs of maintaining these services are higher. Hospitals are citing that risk when justifying their decision to close maternity wards.

As a result of these closures, people in labor may have to travel half an hour or more to get to another hospital where they can deliver their babies. This inconvenient access to emergency care can become a life-threatening situation for both of them if they have complications, as we do.

About 300,000 women with high-risk pregnancies lived in counties without high-standard maternity beds in 2020, according to the group. Approximately 80,000 infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit were born to families living in counties without NICU beds. At the state level, Wyoming has no beds in her NICU at all.

The March of Dimes proposed various policy proposals to address inadequate access to maternity care in America. Increase Medicaid coverage, make midwifery care more widely available and licensed, and improve insurance benefits. This report and other data showing increased maternal mortality during the pandemic call for urgent action to protect the country’s mothers and their babies.

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