The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Some cities that didn’t make the top 10 on our list nonetheless shine in individual areas. Here are the stars in nine individual categories.
Most Birthing Options: San Diego
San Diego’s ratio of doulas to live births is 47 percent higher than our 50-city average, while statewide figures for midwife-attended births are 12 percent higher than average. In 2005, approximately 4,000 San Diego women had out-of-hospital deliveries through Best Start Birth Center, a facility that’s accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers.
Best Access to Hospitals & Doctors: Baltimore
With 11 hospitals that have birthing rooms and more OB-GYNs per capita than almost any other city in our survey, Baltimore offers expectant moms lots of choices for delivering. The city also boasts 10 hospitals with NICUs, and it’s the home of nationally renowned children’s hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. State law also requires hospitals to give pregnant women the option to donate their newborn’s cord blood to a public bank.
Most Affordable City: Minneapolis
Three out of four Minneapolis families own their homes, the highest ratio in our survey and a key indicator of affordability. Minnesota parents also enjoy healthy state income tax breaks for dependents. Better yet, state laws require employers to allow parents to use sick leave to care for children—a rarity.
City with the Lowest Health Risk: Seattle
Seattle has the best combined score for lowest health risk to baby and mom, with very few preterm or low-birth-weight babies and a high percentage of mothers receiving prenatal care. With only 3.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, Washington state’s maternal mortality rate is one of the lowest in our survey, less than half the average.
Safest City: Mesa, Ariz.
Pedestrian injury and death rates in this city are half the national average, and there are more than twice as many infant car seat check stations per capita than average. Honorable mention: Atlanta, where you can make an appointment at any city fire station to have your car seat’s installation checked for safety.
Most Stroller-Friendly City: Virginia Beach, Va.
With moderate year-round temperatures and an average 212 days of sunshine annually, the climate in Virginia Beach weather is ideal for getting out and getting your body back while pushing baby around in the stroller. Better yet, its ratio of recreational pathways and jogging trails is one of the highest of any city in our survey. No matter where you are in this town, chances are good that one of its 241 parks is close by.
Best City for Breastfeeding: Oakland, Calif.
Oakland moms are approximately 16 percent more likely than average to begin breastfeeding, and about 14 percent more likely to be doing so at 6 months. (The average figures for all cities surveyed are 72 percent and 14 percent, respectively.) No wonder: Oakland boasts one of the highest ratios of lactation consultants and breastfeeding-support stores per infant population. And it’s only 15 miles or so to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward, a UNICEF/WHO-designated Baby-Friendly Hospital that meets strict standards for supporting breastfeeding. In addition, progressive California laws guarantee nursing moms the right to breastfeed or pump virtually anywhere, including at work.
Best City for Fertility Services: Boston
Boston is home to more fertility doctors and clinics than most cities in our survey. What’s more, Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that require medical insurance providers to cover fertility treatment, including in vitro fertilization.
Best City for Child Care: Baltimore
Maryland state laws restrict day-care centers to a child-to-staff ratio of no more than 3-to-1 for infants 18 months and younger, and stringent background checks are required for child-care providers, both licensed and volunteer.
Click here for a complete report card on each of our 50 cities, then use our interactive “Best Cities” tool to rank the criteria according to your needs and find a city that might be great for you and your family.