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Need for Maternal Health Programs in Rural Areas

Maternal mortality is rising in the U.S. Rural women experience poorer maternal health outcomes compared to their non-rural counterparts, including higher pregnancy-related mortality (death while pregnant or within one year of the end of a pregnancy). Women in rural and urban communities also experience racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in maternal health outcomes. These disparities are amplified for women living in tribal communities.

Women living in rural communities face challenges accessing needed care. A lack of access to maternal healthcare disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic communities and women with low incomes. Rural women are less likely to receive prenatal care. Prenatal care initiation in the first trimester was lower for mothers in more rural areas compared with suburban areas.

There is a need for high quality maternal health programs in rural communities to address the unique barriers that rural women face. Maternal health programs in rural areas can help to increase access to high quality healthcare services before, during, and after pregnancy, as well as health insurance and social support. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

“In an ideal maternal health system, all women would have access to comprehensive, seamless medical care with links to behavioral, economic, and social supports. Additionally, they would be engaged with this system before, during, and after pregnancy. Across the United States, many women are not receiving care in this ideal system, and women in rural communities face unique challenges that make it harder for them to reach this ideal or any care at all in some cases.”

Resources to Learn More

Improving Access to Maternal Care in Rural Communities
Document
Describes updated program examples of rural hospitals improving access to maternal care.
Organization(s): American Hospital Association
Date: 11/2020

Resources by Topic: Maternal Health and Prenatal Care
Website
Provides a collection of up-to-date resources listed in RHIhub's Online Library related to maternal health and prenatal care that could be used to guide efforts to improve access, treatment, and outcomes.
Organization(s): Rural Health Information Hub

The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve Maternal Health
Document
Describes the state of maternal health in the U.S., including data and statistics on mortality and morbidity. Discusses risks to maternal health, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, infectious diseases, mental health conditions, intimate partner violence, and more. Recommends strategies and actions that individuals, organizations, and communities can implement to improve maternal health and reduce maternal morbidity and mortality. Includes rural references throughout.
Organization: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Date: 2020