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A new report details obstacles to maternity care in Florida

The study presents data on several key factors including levels of maternity care access and maternity care deserts by county, distance to birthing hospitals and availability of family planning services.

Access to health care during pregnancy and around the time of birth is easier to find in some areas of the country than in others. Hospital closures and a shortage of providers creates maternity deserts in some counties where there is no access.

A new reportby the March of Dimes details state-level data, including in Florida.

The farther a person travels to receive maternity care, the greater the risk of negative outcomes, said Caroline Valencia, director of Maternal and Infant Health Initiatives for the March of Dimes in Florida.

"It's important to get that baby into a hospital to make sure if they need to go into the NICU or they need any of these specialists that they have that appropriately and in a timely manner because every second counts in order to get mom's health and baby's health under control," she said.

Nearly 11 percent of Floridians have no birthing hospital within a 30 minute drive and 13 Florida counties are considered maternity care deserts, Valencia said.

"So, there is no obstetrician, no midwife, no family physician that is delivering babies," she said. "Essentially it is a county that has no professional to provide pre-natal care or the safe delivery of a baby."

Most of the maternity care deserts are located in the panhandle but some are in Central Florida including Hardee, Glades and Hendry counties.

Additionally, the report report states that 22 percent of people in Florida are highly vulnerable to adverse outcomes when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth due to a lack of family planning services.

Historically, people of color have lower rates of adequate care and may be less likely to receive services such as important health screenings. In Florida, 20.8 percent of Black, indigenous and other people of color received inadequate prenatal care compared to the national average of 14.8 percent.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.