The Alarming Decline of Maternity Care in Rural Areas and Its Connection to the Risk of Birth Injuries

3 min read

Empty maternity care in rural areas room

The reduction of labor and delivery services in rural hospitals across the United States has become a pressing issue, one with dire consequences for maternal and infant health.

In recent years, more than 200 rural hospitals have closed birthing centers, leaving about 55% of these hospitals without labor and delivery services. As a result, mothers in rural areas must often travel 40 minutes or more to access maternity care.

This decline isn’t just a statistic; it’s a growing gap in the health care system that leaves expectant mothers in rural areas with fewer options and increased risks. One of the most concerning impacts of such minimal availability of maternal care is the increased risk of birth injuries and other complications.

The escalating closures of essential services in rural hospitals over the past decade highlight a deepening crisis affecting our most vulnerable populations.

In the face of such challenges, it’s crucial to know your rights and options. If your child suffered a birth injury, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Learn about the legal options available to you with a free case review.

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Financial and Workforce Challenges Cause Birthing Center Closures

The crisis in rural maternity care stems from complex issues. Financial challenges and staffing shortages in rural hospitals impact their ability to provide labor and delivery services effectively.

Maternity care requires physicians and nurses to be staffed around the clock to provide adequate quality of care. This leads to labor and delivery services costing hospitals much more than other services. In fact, around 33% of rural hospitals lose money from providing maternity care.

As a result, some labor and delivery physicians and nurses in rural areas may be paid less than hospitals in urban centers, causing staffing shortages that have only increased in recent years.

Reduced funding, understaffing, and other factors are driving up the risk of medical malpractice in these hospitals. This situation forces mothers to seek care from facilities that are less equipped or understaffed, which can lead to preventable injuries to both mother and child.

Did you know?

Around 40% of birth injury lawsuits claim that poor management of labor and delivery was a contributor to injuries. This often involves a lack of medical care professionals available to monitor for problems or severe complications.

This financial strain, combined with a national shortage of health care professionals willing to work in rural settings, creates a unstable situation where maintaining quality maternity care becomes unmanageable.

The Need for Immediate Action

The decline of labor and delivery services in rural hospitals is not just a health care issue — it’s a matter of health equity and justice. The rise in birth injuries associated with the lack of local maternity care services underscores the urgency of addressing this crisis, especially for families who are left managing the lifelong effects.

To combat this crisis, the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform recommends hospitals:

  • Attract and retain a dedicated maternity care workforce in rural areas with competitive pay
  • Hold insurance companies accountable for not paying for the cost of delivery services
  • Improve training for rural physicians and nurses to reduce errors and complications

Without quick and clear action, the health of mothers and babies in rural America will face serious risks.

Get Legal Help for Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries

Too many mothers and their children are impacted by birth injuries caused by medical malpractice in understaffed and overcrowded birthing facilities. Every mother and baby, regardless of their geographic location or financial situation, deserves support.

If your baby was harmed during childbirth, filing a birth injury lawsuit may help your family get justice and compensation while holding the hospital accountable for your pain and suffering.

Contact our team at (800) 914-1562 now or get started with a free case review.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
  1. Anderer, S. (2024). “More Than Half of US Rural Hospitals No Longer Offer Birthing Services—Here’s Why.” Retrieved March 27, 2024, from
  2. Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform. “Addressing the Crisis in Rural Maternity Care.” Retrieved March 27, 2024, from