Mid-South states ranked among worst to raise baby

Updated: Aug. 27, 2019 at 5:12 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new study gives a glimpse of what it's like having a child in the Mid-South compared to the rest of the country. The WalletHub study looked at everything from hospital costs to infant mortality and paid leave in each state.

The Mid-South states are near the end of the list. In fact, the study shows Mississippi as the worst state in the U.S. to have a baby when ranking all 50 states plus Washington D.C. Arkansas is ranked 45th and Tennessee 38th.

There's a lot to think about before having a child -- what are average child care costs and health care costs where you live? How is your state's access to prenatal and pediatrician care? Is any of it affordable on your salary?

“It's hard to raise a child anywhere in the United States,” Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said. But the cost of raising a child was only part of the analysis for the WalletHub study of the best and worst states to have a child. It looked at the likelihood of having a healthy child by comparing infant mortality rates.

Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate and Arkansas has the second highest of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study looked at health care accessibility like fewest and most midwives and OBGYNs per capita. Mississippi also ranked in the bottom five.

Nurses at Baptist Desoto said prenatal care is crucial for a healthy baby. It's the only hospital in the area with an emergency OB department.

“What that means is we have a board certified OBGYN here in our department in the hospital 24/7,” Labor and Delivery Nurse Manager Kimberly Rickard said. “If you don't have a provider you're seeing already you can come here, see a doctor and have your symptoms evaluated.” The state just released its first study on pregnancy-related maternal deaths in Mississippi, which found mothers are dying at a higher rate there than compared to the rest of the country. The maternal mortality rate in Mississippi is more than 22 deaths per 100,000 live births. That’s about 1.2 times the national rate.

Hospitals across the state are implementing new protocols for when a mother comes in with a high-risk pregnancy involving high blood pressure and hemorrhaging.

“If you're having a headache or nausea vomiting, you come to the hospital, we assess your blood pressure, then we have a standardized approach of measuring your blood pressure every 10 minutes,” Rickard said. While Tennessee is the 38th overall worst state to have a baby, it ranked 42nd as the most expensive state to raise a child. In comparison, Mississippi was number 14.

The Shelby County Health Department said there are several programs that can help with the financial burden like WIC, which supplements prenatal nutrition and formula and baby food. The state allows pregnant women to get on a Medicaid plan in an expedited process.

But officials said many women are not using the programs available.

“About 28 percent of women who were eligible received WIC in 2018,” Haushalter said. “What we do know, across the country, is the number of women eligible for WIC don't necessarily sign up.”

If you’re a pregnant woman looking to sign up for presumptive eligibility Medicaid you can do that at Regional One. Click here for a list of all the WIC clinics in Shelby County.

If you need help finding a health care provider in Mississippi, call 662-772-3296.

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