An in-depth look at the top 10 cities to be pregnant, give birth and raise a family.
1} Portland, Ore.
What makes it great: Portland moms boast an exceptionally high breastfeeding success rate—an estimated 27 percent of them are still nursing six months after giving birth, more than any other city in our survey. And the place is teeming with OB-GYNs, offering pregnant women plenty of opportunity to select a doc whose approach they're comfortable with. Looking for an alternative birth? There's a doula on almost every corner (Portland has more doulas per 1,000 live births than any city we surveyed, except for Minneapolis). Maternal mortality is very low, and very few babies are born with low birth weight. And when it's time for day care, Portland parents can take comfort in knowing that state laws require thorough background checks for caregivers.
2} Boston What makes it great: Ever since Paul Revere's first midnight ride (the one when he rushed out on horseback to fetch the doctor for his laboring wife, shouting as he rode, "The baby is coming! The baby is coming!"), Boston has enjoyed a reputation as a top health-care center. It's among the leading cities in our survey in access to fertility doctors (see "Fertility Services"), specialty hospitals and pediatricians. Low infant mortality, strong state laws supporting cord-blood donations and research, and excellent air quality round out Beantown's appeal.
3} Minneapolis What makes it great: The Twin Cities lead our survey in access to children's hospitals and fertility clinics. Minneapolis also has the most doulas per 1,000 live births of any city in our survey. Almost 22 percent of moms breastfeed for six months or longer (only two cities in our survey have higher success rates). Infant and maternal mortality are low. Looking for home day care? Minneapolis has the second-highest number of licensed home day-care centers of any city in our survey. It's also the most affordable city for new parents of any we surveyed—especially important if you are having twins!
4} San Francisco What makes it great: The City by the Bay has bountiful fertility specialists, and preterm and low-birth-weight babies are uncommon. Despite the city's foggy reputation, its temperate climate means pregnant moms never have to navigate a frozen sidewalk or suffer through sweltering heat and humidity. And the hills make the perfect venue for getting your body back (just be sure to triple-check the stroller brake or your infant will wind up in his own real-life version of Steve McQueen's hill-hopping Bullitt car chase). Bonus: California has the nation's most progressive laws on breastfeeding rights, disability and family leave. As for the earthquakes—well, babies like being rocked, right?
5} Denver What makes it great: Denver stands a mile above most other places in our survey, with plentiful OB-GYNs and infant pediatricians, and accessible neonatal intensive-care units (NICUs). Abundant infant day-care centers and countless parks make it even better. Also, Colorado's Cesarean-section rate is 18 percent lower than average.
6} Seattle What makes it great: Seattle has the most lactation consultants (measured per 1,000 live births) of any city in our survey—enough that a new mom could probably have a different one for each breast if she wanted. There also are more doulas than almost anywhere else, and more moms in Seattle initiate breastfeeding (91 percent). What's more, the city received the best score in our health-risk category (see "Maternal and Infant Health Risk").
7} Omaha, Neb. What makes it great: Big cities on the left and right coasts don't have a monopoly on great hospitals: Omaha is home to Methodist Hospital, designated one of 50 Baby-Friendly Hospitals in the United States for having met UNICEF/World Health Organization (WHO) standards for supporting breastfeeding. Omaha also is among the top three cities for pedestrian safety. And maternal mortality is very low.
8} Charlotte, N.C. What makes it great: Charlotte moms will find plenty of breastfeeding support: The city ranked very high in access to lactation consultants and breastfeeding-support stores. Charlotte also is more affordable than most places, and it received high scores for family-friendly employers and accessible day-care centers. State laws require March of Dimes-recommended screenings of newborns for eight of nine treatable disorders.
9} Colorado Springs, Colo. What makes it great: This active-outdoor mecca is bursting with outside-exercise opportunities. Not that you'll see an eight-months-pregnant rock climber navigating a 5.11 pitch, or a new mom strapping her 6-week-old onto the back of a mountain bike and tackling some gnarly singletrack (we hope). Despite its reputation for extreme sports, Colorado Springs has plenty of benign exercise options—for example, it has more trails and stroller-friendly pathways than any city in our survey. And when you're ready to return to your career as a professional snowboarder, you'll find plentiful licensed day-care centers, plus state laws that require extensive background checks for day-care workers.
10} Sacramento, Calif. What makes it great: Legislators in this state capital have given California the nation's strongest laws on breastfeeding rights, disability and family leave. Babies in Sacramento are 27 percent less likely than average to be born with low-birth weight. Sacramento moms are 17 percent more likely than average to try breastfeeding their babies (only three cities have a higher rate), and about 14 percent more likely to keep at it through 6 months of age.
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.