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Lengthy drives to hospitals to give birth are becoming more common, The New York Times reports.
85 rural hospitals have shut down since 2010, which is about 5% of the country’s total. Maternal and obstetric care has been hit the hardest due to many factors including the cost of providing round-the-clock delivery services against declining birthrates as well as doctor and nursing shortages and falling revenues.
Fewer than half of America’s rural counties still have a hospital that offers obstetric care, specifically labor and delivery wards. Specialists are heading to lucrative settings in bigger cities. Many reproductive healthcare services have been forced to close their doors in rural towns.
This causes many tough issues for women and families.
Pregnant women go to fewer doctor’s appointments, which results in premature births. More give birth outside a hospital. Women and their families struggle to afford gas, childcare, and time off work to drive miles for prenatal and preventive care.
“The United States is the only industrialized country where the rates of maternal deaths have increased, not decreased,” Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet of Merck for Mothers, a program to reduce the number of maternal deaths throughout the world, told CBS News. “And so, young women actually have a higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than their mothers did.”
What This Means For Latinas
We already know that Latina and black women do not eat a healthy diet before, and sometimes during, pregnancy.
Latina women lacking a healthy maternal diet are at high risk for obesity, preterm birth, and preeclampsia, which in turn, negatively affects their pregnancy.
Nearly 50% of Latinas are overweight or obese when they become pregnant, according to a Salud America! research review.
“If you’re a woman of color in this country, especially if you are black, your odds of dying in childbirth are three to four times higher on average in our country,” Dr. Neel Shah, a professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, told CBS News.
Even world-class athlete Serena Williams developed a pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her daughter, according to the New York Times. Williams mentioned that she was persistent on receiving a CT scan, and if she had not received one, she would not be alive today.
“If women with resources are at risk, imagine what happens to women without access to proper health care?” wrote CBS News., noting several uninsured women’s difficulties finding prenatal or preventive care.
This problem is not going away with the closing of many rural hospitals.
Some areas are working on transportation solutions.
A county in Oregon embeds a bilingual health navigator in schools to directly reach Latina parents to better connect them to health services. Rabbit Transit in New York gives rides to rural senior citizens to shop for groceries or reach farmer’s markets. In Minnesota, planned public transit improvements will enable more buses across the Twin Cities. This would connect a mostly Latino mobile home community to healthcare and opportunity.