For nearly 6 million women, US is a 'dangerous' place to deliver: Report

Access to maternity care in the U.S. is dwindling for millions of women, according to a newly released March of Dimes report. 

The Aug. 1 findings show more than 5.6 million women live in counties with no or little access to maternity care services. The research — "Where You Live Matters: Maternity Care Deserts and the Crisis of Access and Equity" —  is a collection of state-by-state reports that examine healthcare access gaps related to birthing services. 

Overall, the report found about 36 percent of U.S. counties are considered maternity care deserts, meaning they do not have a hospital or birth center that offers obstetric care and do not have obstetric providers. 

"A person's ability to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy birth should not be dictated by where they live and their ability to access consistent, quality care but these reports show that, today, these factors make it dangerous to be pregnant and give birth for millions of women in the United States," Elizabeth Cherot, MD, president and CEO of March of Dimes, said in a news release. 

March of Dimes has published reports examining maternity access since 2018. Since the initial report, the loss of hospital obstetric units was responsible for worsening maternity care access in 369 counties. And 70 additional counties were classified as maternity care deserts because of a loss of obstetric providers and units in hospitals.

"These reports come during a critical time for hospitals struggling with maternity unit closures, recruitment and staffing," the organization said in a statement. March of Dimes is a nonprofit aiming to improve maternal and child health through research and advocacy work. 

At least four hospitals have ended obstetrics services since June. 

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