Help Us Improve Access to Maternity Care in the United States

Distance to care can make the difference between life and death.

No woman should have to travel an hour or more to get the maternity care needed to keep herself and her baby healthy, but that is the reality for many women in the United States.

Mother, Emerald, featured in ‘Giving Birth in America: Montana’, avoided a repeat cesarean, but had to make the two-hour drive to a hospital when she developed serious postpartum complications. Genevieve Reid, MD, a family practice physician in Livingston, Montana, struggles to provide the best quality care to her patients, many of whom live long distances from a hospital.

Why is improving access to maternity care important?

About 4 of every 10 counties in the US have no obstetrician or midwife to provide maternity care, and millions of women live in these shortage areas. In under-resourced urban areas, maternity care providers may be available for those with private insurance, but not accessible to women enrolled in Medicaid.

That’s why we’re asking you to urge your Senator to co-sponsor S. 783 — the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act. This bill will require the government to identify areas that face shortages of maternity care professionals, the first step in helping to fill those gaps. Right now, there is no system for identifying the areas where more pregnancy and childbirth care professionals are needed. Under this bill, HRSA will collect and publish data on the availability of and need for health care professionals providing prenatal and childbirth care in order to bring more.

Why is the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act important?

Every 8 minutes a woman in the US faces a life-threatening complication from pregnancy or childbirth, and these numbers are on the rise. It’s critical to ensure that all women have ready access to health care providers in their community to help prevent complications from developing or becoming life threatening.

Every Mother Counts is joining with the American College of Nurse Midwives, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and others to support legislation that will help bring midwives and obstetricians into these to communities with shortages of maternity care providers..

Real-life Impact

The experiences of women and care providers in shortage areas have been captured by our Giving Birth in America series:

In ‘Giving Birth in America: Montana’, Emerald avoided a repeat cesarean, but had to make the two-hour drive to a hospital when she developed serious postpartum complications. Genevieve Reid, MD, a family practice physician in Livingston, Montana, struggles to provide the best quality care to her patients, many of whom live long distances from a hospital. Reid told Every Mother Counts,

“Many women living in rural areas don’t have easy access to healthcare either for clinics for prenatal care or hospitals for delivery care. They often face drives of two hours or more.”

In Louisiana, on days when Marshall St. Amant, MD, a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist, is not seeing high-risk patients in Baton Rouge, he travels by car and more remotely, by twin-engine plane to visit women who otherwise would not have access to medical services they desperately need.

“We could stay in Baton Rouge and hope for the patients to drive an hour and a half to us. But so many patients would lose out on the opportunity to get care, because they just couldn’t afford the gas or have a car that would work. So we flip the tables, and we get in our car, and we drive down to them.”

These problems reach beyond rural areas, affecting women in under-resourced urban communities as well. Midwife Jennie Joseph was seeing large numbers of low-income women who couldn’t get care anywhere else in the Orlando, Florida area. She responded by developing the model for and opening “Easy Access Clinics,” where they have a policy not to turn away any women who needs care. Easy access clinics offer quality care for all, regardless of ability to pay, and have demonstrated success at reducing complications for childbearing women and infants in Central Florida.

Why is the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act a priority for Every Mother Counts?

All women should have access to pregnancy and childbirth care that is safe, respectful, and compassionate. Every Mother Counts has been helping to improve access to care around the globe by supporting grantee partners who bring skilled care providers to women — with mobile clinics and workforce development initiatives — and by bringing women to care by increasing affordable transportation options. One of our very first grants was to support a transportation voucher through the Saving Mothers, Giving Life program, ensuring pregnant women can reach a health facility when they go into labor. Some of our most recent grants have gone to support the education of new midwives in Guatemala and Haiti to serve women in areas with severe shortages of skilled care providers.

The need for these solutions may be expected in low-resource countries, but it’s shocking in the US.

How can you help?

The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act already passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support in a vote of 405 to 0! In March, the Act was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The next step is to get additional Senators to co-sponsor the bill.

Encourage your Senator to co-sponsor the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act to show their support for mothers and babies across the U.S.

Help us make sure all women in the US can get needed care during pregnancy and childbirth.

Take action now!

Topics: Maternal Health