Maternity care deserts are spreading across the U.S., March of Dimes report finds

More than 5.6 million women live in counties with no or limited access to maternity care

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published August 2, 2023 3:53PM (EDT)

Doctor Examining Pregnant Woman (Getty Images/chuanchai)
Doctor Examining Pregnant Woman (Getty Images/chuanchai)

This week, the nonprofit March of Dimes released a series of reports focused on access to maternity care across the country. Nationwide, they found that more than one-third of the U.S. is now considered to be a maternity care desert, leaving more than 5.6 million women in counties with no or limited access to maternity care. The report estimates that since 2018 there are now 70 counties that newly classify as a maternity care desert. The loss of obstetric units in hospitals was cited for a lack in maternity care access in 369 counties. 

To put this in perspective, an estimated one in 10 women across the country who gave birth within the past year lived more than a half hour away from a birthing hospital. This burden is more pronounced in rural states. For example, in North Dakota, March of Dimes estimates that on average a woman must travel 32.4 miles to a hospital providing obstetric care.

"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 shows that, today, these factors make it dangerous to be pregnant and give birth for millions of women in the United States," Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, CEO and president of March of Dimes, said in a statement. "Our research shows maternity care is simply not a priority in our healthcare system and steps must be taken to ensure all moms receive the care they need and deserve to have healthy pregnancies and strong babies."



MORE FROM Nicole Karlis