More than half the counties in Mississippi are considered maternity care deserts, according to the new report from the March of Dimes. These counties have no hospitals providing obstetric care, no OB-GYNs and no certified nurse midwives. 

Discontinued labor and delivery services and shuttered neonatal intensive care units have dominated headlines in the state in recent months, painting a bleak picture for mothers and babies’ access to care. Greenwood Leflore Hospital closed Leflore County’s only labor and delivery unit on Oct. 15. Over the summer, Ochsner Medical Center in Hancock County did the same. 

The Mississippi Delta’s only neonatal intensive care unit closed in July. A few months ago, the NICU at Merit Health Central in south Jackson also shut down, raising concerns about disruptions in care for high-risk moms and babies.

The trend of reduced access and care for mothers and babies — on the heels of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and is expected to result in 5,000 additional babies in Mississippi alone — does not bode well for a state already plagued by high infant and maternal mortality rates and poor health outcomes.

READ MORE: Mississippi's maternity care desert: A look inside


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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.

Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on NBC.com. In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.