one recent year, more than 8 percent of all babies born in the United States had a low birth weight, 10 percent were born prematurely, and more than 21,000 infants died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many healthcare experts now think one cause of these bleak statistics is “maternity care deserts,” or regions where women have little or no access to maternity care.
A new report from the nonprofit group March of Dimes says that more than 7 million women of childbearing age live in areas across the country that have limited or nonexistent access to maternity healthcare services. According to the report, these women are giving birth to more than 500,000 babies a year, placing both the babies and their mothers at significant risk of injury or death.
What Is a Maternity Care Desert?
March of Dimes defines a maternity care desert as a county where women’s access to maternity care services is either limited or absent. A desert can be the result of either a lack of services or a situation where women’s barriers to care are so high that receiving effective care is a challenge.
Many groups are working to expand women’s access to maternity care, but it’s unclear whether those efforts have been effective. The March of Dimes study found that 6 percent of all U.S. counties changed their level of access to maternity care between 2018 and 2020. While 3 percent of all U.S. counties improved their access to maternity care, the remaining 3 percent saw their access to maternity care decrease.
Factors That Create a Maternity Care Desert
A county is classified as a maternity care desert if there are:
- No hospitals or birth centers that offer obstetric care
- No maternity care providers (such as an OB/GYN doctor or certified nurse-midwife) per 10,000 births
- More than 11 percent of women age 18-64 without health insurance
What the Statistics Show
The statistics from the March of Dimes report look dire. Among other data points, the group found that:
- More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age lived in a county with no hospital that provided obstetric care, no birth center, and no other obstetric provider.
- In one recent year, almost 150,000 babies were born to women living in maternity care deserts.
- Nearly 35 percent of all U.S. counties were classified as maternity care deserts, while fewer than half (about 46 percent) were classified as having full access to maternity care.
Contact Baker & Gilchrist for Legal Help After a Birth Injury
Lack of access to proper medical care is a leading cause of birth injuries. Unfortunately, when healthcare providers and resources are limited, mistakes are more likely to be made. These injuries can severely impact a child’s development for the rest of their lives.
The injury attorneys at Baker & Gilchrist take great pride in helping injured people when their injuries occur due to someone else’s negligent, careless, or reckless actions. With over 60 years of combined litigation experience, we can offer you the knowledge and assistance necessary to help you win the compensation you rightfully deserve for your injuries.