A recent American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) consensus statement on levels of maternity care lays out designations that correspond to specific capacities available in facilities that provide obstetric care. Pregnant women in rural and remote areas receive particular attention in discussions of regionalization and levels of care, owing to the challenges in assuring local access to high-acuity services when necessary. Currently, approximately half a million rural women give birth each year in US hospitals, and whether and which of these women give birth locally is crucial for successfully operationalizing maternal levels of care.
We sought to characterize rural women who give birth in nonlocal hospitals and measure local hospital characteristics and maternal diagnoses present at childbirth that are associated with nonlocal childbirth.
This was a repeat cross-sectional analysis of administrative hospital discharge data for all births to rural women in 9 states in 2010 and 2012. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to predict the odds of childbirth in a nonlocal hospital (at least 30 road miles from the patient's residence). We examined patient age, race/ethnicity, payer, rurality, clinical diagnoses (diabetes, hypertension, hemorrhage during pregnancy, placental abnormalities, malpresentation, multiple gestation, preterm delivery, prior cesarean delivery, and a composite of diagnoses that may require MFM consultation), as well as local hospital characteristics (birth volume, neonatal care level, ownership, accreditation, and system affiliation).
The rate of nonlocal childbirth among 216,076 rural women was 25.4%. It varied significantly by primary payer (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.68-0.86 for Medicaid vs private insurance) and by clinical conditions including multiple gestation (AOR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.58-2.1), preterm deliveries (AOR, 2.41; 95% CI, 2.17-2.67), and conditions that may require MFM services or consultation (AOR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.22-1.35). Rural women whose local hospital did not have a neonatal intensive or intermediate care unit had nearly double the odds of giving birth at a nonlocal hospital (AOR, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.64-2.31).
Approximately 75% of rural women gave birth at local hospitals; rural women with preterm births and clinical complications, as well as those without local access to higher-acuity neonatal care, were more likely to give birth in nonlocal hospitals. However, after controlling for clinical complications, rural Medicaid beneficiaries were less likely to give birth at nonlocal hospitals, implying a potential access challenge for this population.