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Maternity Care Desert

Maternity care deserts are counties in which access to maternity health care services is limited or absent, either through lack of services or barriers to a woman's ability to access that care within counties. A maternity care desert is any county in the United States without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers. Low access to appropriate preventive, prenatal and postpartum care is defined as counties with one or fewer hospitals or birth centers that provide obstetric care, few obstetric providers (fewer than 60 per 10,000 births) or a high proportion of women without health insurance (10 percent or more). Moderate access to care is defined as living in a county with access to few hospitals/birth centers or OB providers and adequate health insurance coverage (less than 10 percent of women of reproductive age uninsured). Full access to maternity care can be defined by availability of hospitals or birth centers providing obstetric care and availability of providers offering obstetric care.

  • More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in maternity care deserts (1,119 counties) that have no hospital offering obstetric care, no birth center and no obstetric provider.
  • Almost 150,000 babies were born in maternity care deserts.
  • An additional 4.7 million women of childbearing age live in counties with limited access to maternity care.

Access to quality maternity care is a critical component of maternal health and positive birth outcomes, especially in light of the high rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity in the U.S. Find the full report here:

Explore the data on this page to better understand maternity care deserts in your county.

Last updated: October 2022