Many women are hour away from maternity care

Study finds wide variation in access to hospital maternity services

Topics: Women's Services, Service Lines

March 5, 2012

Many women living in rural, Western states must drive for more than an hour to reach a hospital that provides maternity care, according to a study in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Overall, more than 97% of women ages 18 to 39 live within a one-hour drive of a hospital that provides at least basic maternity and nursery care. Moreover, 80% of women live less than an hour away from a hospital with resources for handling complicated deliveries, such as a neonatal ICUs.

Do you live in a state with easy access?
More than 99% of women in the Northeast live within a one-hour drive of maternity services, with the vast majority living within a 30-minute drive. The top five states for access were:

  • Indiana (99.9% of women lived within 60-minutes of maternity care);
  • Ohio (99.9%);
  • Pennsylvania (99.9%);
  • Rhode Island (99.9%); and
  • Iowa (99.8%)

However, women in Western, non-costal states with lower population densities had less easy access to care. The bottom five states were:

  • Alaska (62.8%);
  • Montana (68.1%);
  • New Mexico (83.1%);
  • Wyoming (84.2%); and
  • North Dakota (84.2%)

According to the study, there is no consensus on the "optimal distribution" of hospitals with maternity and newborn services. "[I]deally, no woman should have to drive more than an hour," says the University of New Mexico's William Rayburn, who led the study.

Rayburn suggests greater use of telemedicine to allow physicians at larger hospitals to advise physicians at smaller facilities on complicated cases (Norton, Reuters, 3/1).

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