“Maternity Deserts,” a new documentary from Newsy, examines how access to maternity care across the country has declined over the last decade and the impact the disproportionate lack of access has on certain populations.
Newsy journalists compiled a database of over 100 maternity wards, labor and delivery units and birthing centers across the U.S. that have shuttered since 2008. And a Newsy analysis estimates 10.6 million U.S. women lived in counties with no OB-GYNs to provide maternal care, according to the latest available data, from 2016. That’s up from an estimated 9.9 million women living in counties without OB-GYNs in 2010.
Newsy found 38 percent of the hospitals cited declining birth rates and low demand as reasons for closing their doors. Below that, 20 percent of hospitals cited financial issues and 14 percent said low reimbursement from Medicaid payments were contributing factors.
“It’s amazing that as a nation, we still don’t know exactly how many hospitals and maternity wards have closed in the last decade,” said Zach Toombs, executive producer for Newsy Documentaries. “While this is a trend with nationwide scale, we learned there are significant local-level gaps in the care system that are already having an impact.”
According to leading researchers at the University of Minnesota who spoke with Newsy, black mothers were the demographic most at-risk of losing maternal care services. Their study found counties with a higher proportion of black residents were most likely to lose hospital-based obstetric services.
“This is especially important because black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from complications of childbirth than white mothers, according to researchers we interviewed,” Newsy producer Jessica Diaz-Hurtado said. “The experiences of the black mothers we follow in this project show the real-life impact of losing maternal care.”
“Maternity Deserts” follows two mothers facing maternity ward closures in their communities — one in Washington, D.C., the other in rural Missouri. Through intimate personal stories and interviews examining the U.S.’s widespread deserts in maternal care, the documentary shows how mothers are navigating vast gaps in a system with challenging economics.
“Maternity Deserts” airs Sunday, May 19, at 8 p.m. Eastern on Newsy’s channel, available across the leading cable providers and over-the-top platforms including YouTube TV and Sling TV. It will also be available to stream on demand beginning Monday, May 20, on Newsy’s apps and online at newsy.com/deserts. To find all the ways to watch Newsy, visit newsy.com/platforms. Newsy is a wholly owned subsidiary of The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP).
Newsy is the leading cross-platform television news network that provides “news with the why,” built to inform and engage by delivering the top stories across every platform. Its content is available on cable; on over-the-top services including Hulu, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Sling TV, and Pluto TV; and on connected television including Xumo. Newsy is also available via its mobile apps and at newsy.com.
Kari Wethington, The E.W. Scripps Company, 513-977-3763, firstname.lastname@example.org