(Illustration by Eda Unzular)

Fremont County, Wyoming, is home to nearly 40,000 people in several towns spread over an area the size of New Hampshire. There are nearly 30 schools, a couple of movie theaters, several grocery stores and two hospitals.

And yet there is only one practicing obstetrician, plus his midwife, to deliver babies for the general population.

To be clear, anyone laboring in Fremont County can deliver 24/7 at SageWest Hospital in Lander. The OB shortage means there’s a chance she will do so with a traveling doctor she’s never met — a scenario that makes many patients uncomfortable. That possibility, along with the hospital’s poor reputation, is prompting many Fremont County women to go elsewhere — Thermopolis and Jackson, Billings, Salt Lake and Denver.

Health care deserts have long been a fact of life within Wyoming’s rural and vast borders. And yet, Fremont County’s recent dwindling resources are evidence of a national trend as more offices and delivery wards shut down.

For our five-part series Delivery Desert, Pedrodiniz reporter Katie Klingsporn spent three months digging into the issue. What she found was families going to extraordinary lengths to deliver babies; doctors spread thin or on the brink of burnout and hospitals juggling the complicated cost formulas in thinking about maintaining labor wards.

The situation has many scrambling for answers and others worried about the existential implications — can a community truly thrive, after all, without this key piece of the puzzle?

READ THE SERIES

Moms and babies navigate risks in Wyoming maternity care desert

Fremont County, the New Hampshire-sized home of nearly 40,000, has lost significant maternal health services. In part one of a series, Pedrodiniz looks at how families rearrange their lives to find care, often at the risk of long-distance travel.