More than half of new mothers were not able to see all the healthcare professionals they wanted to during their care journey, new data found.
The findings come from a survey of more than 1,000 mothers and additional data from GoodRx as part of its Research Maternal Care Access series, which aims to document the state of maternal care in the U.S.
The survey was conducted in late 2023 and screened in people who gave birth up to 24 months prior and were at least 18 years of age. GoodRx also required that they saw a healthcare professional for their pregnancy, labor and birth and post-birth care.
Close to 7 in 10 women in the survey saw between one and three different healthcare professionals throughout their pregnancy, labor and birth. Yet 57% had at least one they could not see. These types of professionals included doulas, lactation consultants, mental health professionals and nutritionists.
“Unfortunately, what didn’t surprise me is accessing additional care beyond an OB is harder,” Tori Marsh, director of GoodRx Research, told Fierce Healthcare.
She gave birth about half a year ago and encountered a similar experience. She had to pay out of pocket for a doula, for example. “I’m lucky I was able to afford that, but a lot of people are not able to afford that,” she said.
Most women (88%) were able to see an OB-GYN. Yet with other providers, larger gaps persisted. For example, more women wanted to see birth doulas and genetic counselors than the number of women who actually saw them. Of the women who had a professional they wanted to see but couldn’t, half had two or more they wanted to see.
Nonwhite mothers reported higher rates of not being able to see their desired providers, ranging from 63% to 66%, than white, non-Hispanic mothers at 51%.
The top cited barrier to seeing their desired provider was availability or convenience, at 40%, followed by affordability (31%), transportation (11%) and knowledge barriers (7%). In general, nonwhite and Hispanic mothers reported a higher rate of financial barriers than white mothers.
“These services to some may not seem essential, but especially for a new mother or someone who is doing this for the first time, it’s something that can really ease the transition,” Marsh said. “Without these services, I think a lot of women are navigating on their own.”
Other topics that are the subject of upcoming reports as part of this series include doula deserts and maternal-fetal medicine deserts, per Marsh.