A new report found that access to maternal health care is on the decline, which puts millions at risk for complications as the maternal mortality rate continues to rise.
The new data from the nonprofit organization March of Dimes found that in 2022, more than 6.9 million women live in maternity care deserts or areas where there is limited maternity care access. According to the new report, 36 percent of U.S. counties are classified as maternity care deserts. About two in three of those deserts are in rural counties.
The organization defines a maternity care desert as “any county without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers.” Since its first report in 2018, the organization has found a 4 percent increase in maternity care deserts throughout the U.S.
Five percent of counties in the U.S. have seen lower access to maternity health care while three percent of counties have seen increased access to maternity health care since the 2020 report. Since the 2020 report, there has been a 2 percent increase in counties that are maternal care deserts, which translates to 1,119 counties and 15,933 female residents of childbearing age.
Just 45.7 percent of all U.S. counties had full access to maternity care, according to the report. Overall, more than 2.8 million women of childbearing age as well as 160,000 babies were affected by the lack of access to maternity care across the county in 2022.
The report also noted that Ohio had the most women, about 97,000, impacted by the decreasing access to care while Florida had the most women, about 92,000, affected by the improvements to maternity care access.
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