The March of Dimes has classified a number of West Central Illinois counties as a maternity care desert.
A county is classified as a maternity care desert if there were no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birth centers, no obstetrician/gynecologist and no certified nurse midwives.
Calhoun, Pike, Scott, Brown, Cass, Menard, Schuyler, and Mason counties have all been given the designation of being a maternity care desert. March of Dimes says these counties join the 36% of counties nationwide with the designation, with the most located in the South and Midwest.
March of Dimes says this year’s report is much grimmer than their report two years ago. Five percent of counties have a worse designation this time around, and there’s been a 2% increase in counties classified as maternity care deserts. March of Dimes says these changes are driven primarily by the loss of obstetric providers and hospital services within counties, as a result of financial and logistical challenges including the COVID pandemic. The organization says these deserts primarily harm rural communities and people of color.
The March of Dimes report builds on a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office saying the pandemic caused an increase in in the number of women who died from pregnancy or childbirth complications in the U.S. last year. It finds that pregnancy-related deaths have spiked nearly 80% since 2018, with COVID-19 being a factor in a quarter of the reported pregnancy-related deaths last year.