Maternal Sepsis and Maternity Care Deserts

May 15, 2024

Recent reporting shows that in Texas, 46.5% of counties have no maternal healthcare options or birthing hospitals. Areas with no maternal healthcare, sometimes called “maternity care deserts,” put pregnant people at increased risk of dangerous, and even deadly, pregnancy complications – like maternal sepsis. In Texas, the maternal mortality rate is 20% higher than the national average.

Texas is not alone. According to the March of Dimes, approximately 2.2 million women and almost 150,000 babies are affected by maternity care deserts in the United States. Some reports estimate that as many as one-third of U.S. counties are maternity care deserts. Another example is Alabama, where, on average, a pregnant person must travel 17.4 miles to a hospital providing maternal care. In Alabama, the maternal mortality rate is 55% higher than the national average – one of the highest in the country.

Maternal sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection before, during, or after childbirth. Maternal sepsis is already the number two cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States – and maternity care deserts make this problem worse.

If pregnant people start to notice dangerous signs and symptoms in their bodies, they need to seek treatment immediately. Sepsis is about TIME – early detection and treatment provide the best chance for survival and recovery. Maternity care deserts put pregnant people at increased risk because they make it harder for patients to begin receiving treatment quickly. In some cases, a long drive might discourage a patient from going to their doctor or make it impossible to seek treatment at all.

Sepsis Alliance is committed to improving outcomes for people who develop sepsis during or following a pregnancy, so that more survive pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. That’s why this Maternal Sepsis Week, we are raising awareness of the problem of maternity care deserts, how they relate to maternal sepsis, and how pregnant patients can identify the signs and symptoms.


To discover more maternal sepsis information and resources, please visit

To send a letter to your local newspaper about the maternal sepsis and maternity desert crisis, please visit our Grassroots Action Center.