Family Healthcast: Maternity deserts

There are areas of the country where women have limited or no access to obstetrics care before, during and after pregnancy
Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 12:49 PM CDT
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KSNB) - As the pandemic was picking up this spring, the obstetrics unit at Regional Medical Center in San Jose was closing down.

Expecting mothers were redirected to a sister facility 45 minutes away in traffic.

“We have patients from the east side, mostly poor minority patients. To deny them services is crazy.” said Dr. Kenneth Phan, with Obstetrics & Gynecology.

But according to the March of Dimes it’s becoming more common, as more obstetrics units in the U.S. close, creating maternity deserts.

“Fifty-four percent of all counties in the country, women have either no access to maternity care or very limited access,” said Stacey Stewart, President & CEO of March of Dimes.

The “nowhere to go” report reveals some seven million women of childbearing age live in these areas, leading to higher rates of low birth weights, preterm births and even deaths.

They said the issue impacts both rural and urban areas, and disproportionately women of color.

“If you are black, you are 50 percent more likely to give birth to a child who is preterm,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical and Health Officer of March of Dimes.

And with the pandemic putting additional pressure on expectant mothers and maternity centers, the report is calling for expanded access to affordable care, stronger family leave policies and more research.

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