GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) — Four counties in the Piedmont triad are designated as “maternity care deserts,” and two others are considered to have low levels of care available for mothers and babies.
Alleghany, Caswell, Montgomery and Stokes are among the 18% of counties in North Carolina that are defined as maternity care deserts, or counties in which there were no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birthing centers, no OB/GYN specialists, and no certified nurse midwives.
Two other counties in the Triad, Davidson and Randolph, were ranked as low for maternity care. This means they have less than two hospitals and birthing centers offering OB care, less than 60 OB/GYN providers or certified nurse midwives per 10,000 births, and 10% or less of women ages 18-64 without insurance. sickness.
March of Dimes, using data from 2020, found that, based on 2010 census figures, there were nearly 3 million women nationwide between the ages of 15 and 44 – the highest childbearing years. – who had poor access to maternity care. The report found there were 1,095 counties nationwide that are considered maternity care deserts and another 359 categorized as Low.
More than 53,000 women reside in the four Triad counties designated as maternity care deserts, based on a 2021 Census Bureau report. About 80 percent of them are typically over the age of 19 and a significant percentage is between 15 and 44 years old. In Randolph and Davidson counties, there are over 161,000 women.
Based on the most recent data available, as compiled by the North Carolina Department of Public Health for the County Health Data Book, the four counties designated as maternity care deserts represented more than 900 live births in 2020. All but two were between 15 and 44 years old. Two births were at 14 years old.
Davidson and Randolph counties accounted for 3,258 live births in 2020, all but six in the 15-44 age bracket. The others were all older. By comparison, the Census Bureau reports that there were 114,011 births statewide in the year ending June 30, 2021.
National birth rates have declined, but some health care experts suggest that this problem with OB/GYN care could be exacerbated in states that tighten abortion restrictions or ban abortions altogether. Birth rates are expected to rise as fewer pregnancies are terminated.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported in 2019 that there was a shortage of approximately 9,000 OB/GYN specialists nationwideand that number is expected to reach 22,000 by 2056.
“The ramifications of this shortage for women’s health extend far beyond childbirth,” the report said. “While OB-GYNs are the primary source of care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, they also provide a wide range of gynecological care throughout a woman’s life.”
Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that in 2018 there were 480 employees of OBGYNs in North Carolina. The state’s population is now over 10 million. The job postings show dozens of vacancies for OB/GYN employees across the state.
More problems to come?
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft advisory suggests, expanding births should put more pressure on counties in which there is already no care.
It is likely that states about to automatically ban abortion are among those likely to have a high percentage of maternity care deserters, Axios reported. The highest percentage of maternity care deserts are found in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Texas.
North Carolina has one of the lowest percentages of counties that have maternity care deserts. Most of the lowest are in the northeast, where the population tends to be more concentrated. Several states did not have counties with maternity care deserts.
But of the roughly 18 counties in North Carolina that qualify, most are in the Far East and West regions. None of the more populated counties have service issues.
North Carolina in 2020 had a total pregnancy rate of 68.6 and the fertility rate was 56.2. The abortion rate was 12.1, the highest in 10 years, the North Carolina Division of Public Health reported.
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