Maternity Care Shortages and Birth Injuries

One of the major risk factors for birth injuries, such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), is lack of access to high quality healthcare. This means that births may be more dangerous if the mother does not live near a hospital with trained and qualified staff, or if she is uninsured/unable to afford care. 

Additionally, some states are now experiencing maternity care shortages, which means that many more women are unable to receive the care they need during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. These shortages could further increase the incidence of birth injuries, as well as injuries to the mother, maternal mortality, and perinatal mortality (death of the baby shortly before, during, or after birth). 

In 2017, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that half of the counties in the United States do not have a single OB-GYN. Moreover, following current trends, OB-GYN shortages are likely to grow over time, and may be in the tens of thousands in the next couple decades (1). 

Although people often think of shortages as primarily affecting rural areas, major cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, Miami, Los Angeles, and Phoenix are also at high risk of serious maternity care shortages (2, 3). 

Causes of OB-GYN shortages

In the U.S., the number of women of childbearing age has increased substantially over time. However, the number of people becoming OB-GYNs and staying in that profession long-term has not kept up. There are several factors that may be contributing to these shortages, including the following (2, 3, 4):

  • Not enough residency slots
  • Not enough practitioners willing to work in rural or underserved areas
  • Low Medicaid reimbursements (i.e. low pay)
  • Burnout and early retirement, which may be due to:
    • Long and unpredictable hours
    • Night-time hours
    • Stressful emergencies

Potential solutions to OB-GYN shortages

Fortunately, there are some initiatives aimed at combating these shortages. These include (2):

  • Efforts to attract OB-GYNs to underserved areas. One example is the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s rural OB-GYN residency track. This program sends residents to rural sites, hoping this will increase their comfort in working without being surrounded by specialists. Jody Silva, the rural residency coordinator, told AAMC News that, “By having part of your training at a rural hospital you’ll be more comfortable taking a job at a rural hospital.”
  • Part-time and flexible schedules. Some hospitals have started to change their scheduling options so that OB-GYNs are able to have more work-life balance. This is particularly important because many OB-GYNs are young parents themselves, and may need to work part-time while raising their children. Then they can transition back to full-time work once they are able to.
  • Telemedicine programs. While telemedicine may not be able to replace in-person care, especially for emergencies, it can be a useful supplement. Moreover, research shows that telemedicine programs have reduced rates of premature birth (another major risk factor for birth injuries), as well as neonatal and maternal mortality.

About ABC Law Centers

ABC Law Centers was established to focus exclusively on birth injury cases. A “birth injury” is any type of harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after birth. This includes issues such as oxygen deprivation, infection, and trauma. While some children with birth injuries make a complete recovery, others develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

If a birth injury/subsequent disability could have been prevented with proper care, then it constitutes medical malpractice. Settlements from birth injury cases can cover the costs of lifelong treatment, care, and other crucial resources. 

If you believe you may have a birth injury case for your child, please contact us today to learn more. We are happy to talk to you free of any obligation or charge. In fact, clients pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win. 

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Sources

  1. Rayburn, W. F. (2017). The Obstetrician– Gynecologist Workforce in the United States: Facts, Figures, and Implications (2017)[PDF]. Washington, DC: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
  2. Labor pains: The OB-GYN shortage. (2018, November 15). Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://news.aamc.org/patient-care/article/labor-pains-obgyn-shortage/ 
  3. Blasius, M. (2019, June 20). Phoenix OB-GYNs delivering more babies, getting less pay. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.kgun9.com/news/state/maternity-deserts-arizona-at-risk-for-maternity-care-shortage 
  4. Brody, B. (2018, November 14). The Ob-Gyn Shortage Is Real-And It Might Impact Your Care. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.glamour.com/story/ob-gyn-shortage 

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