What Challenges and Disparities Are Faced by Birthing People in the United States? 


There are countless systemic disparities facing birthing people and their families in America. We’ve outlined just a few below.

Socioeconomic Barriers to Care 

Childbirth is expensive in America, and prenatal care can be too expensive for some families. Maternity care deserts are also growing nationwide, with hospitals closing maternity units and leaving people without care. In these cases, families must travel long distances to receive care. 

Maternity Care Deserts: Fast Facts 

Over 50% of US counties have no maternity care providers at all.
2.2 million
More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in maternity care deserts.
Almost 150,000 babies were born in maternity care deserts.
4.7 million
4.7 million women of childbearing age live in counties with limited access to maternity care.

Increased Maternal Mortality Among Communities of Color 

Black women face a much higher risk of maternal death, with 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births among Black women in the U.S. in 2021. One contributing factor to Black maternal mortality is the allostatic load caused by the chronic stressors of racism. Another factor is the health system failing Black women and families, with many reporting that their healthcare providers ignore their reports and symptoms and harbor implicit biases. 

American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities and some Latina populations also have an elevated risk of poor birth outcomes. The perinatal healthcare system is not working well for anyone, but communities of color are disproportionately bearing the burden.

Non-Inclusive Birthing Systems 

There’s a concerning lack of diversity in birthing systems. This lack of representation can lead to LGBTQIA+ parents feeling unseen, discriminated against, isolated, and uncomfortable. In non-affirming birth environments, clients can feel unsafe while at their most vulnerable, which stifles communication between client and doctor and leads to more significant health risks. In a recent poll, around 31% of LGBTQIA+ birthing people gave a lower-quality report of their experience with pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care. Around 51% of these individuals said that their care was impacted by bias or discrimination. 

With the difficult circumstances birthing people face, there are also individuals pursuing advocacy, systems change, and meaningful and affirming one-on-one connections with their clients. These professionals work within, and alongside, the health systems providing care and changing how clients are treated. 

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