Maternal child health needs are one of the priorities of the new Bastrop County Health Department. Over the next year, a public health task force will investigate how to address the county’s need for birthing care.

Dr. Linda Willson, Smithville Hospital Authority board president, said there is a growing need for physicians and clinics for pregnant women as the population of Bastrop County rises. Despite the presence of institutions such as The Bastrop Birthing Center, The Lone Star Circle of Care and The Bastrop Community Health Clinic, babies are primarily delivered in Austin, Wilson said.

“We just don't have the capacity to deliver babies here,” Wilson said.

Current situation

Bastrop’s distance from major hospitals limits options for growing families in the area in need of prenatal, birthing and postpartum care, Bastrop Birthing Center owner Ellie Noble said.

“[There are] moms who are out here who want to deliver in the hospital, but they can't because they'll have fast births,” Noble said. “I have moms who show up and they live 15 minutes from here, and they deliver within 10 minutes of walking in. Like, that's not safe for them to be driving that far to go to the hospital or go to any practitioner in Austin because what that would look like would be a very scared, unassisted home birth that is just filled with fear.”

Put in perspective

Noble said having nearby options helps decrease stress during pregnancy and increase the likelihood of check-in attendance. Wilson said The Community Care Clinic is the biggest group that offers prenatal care in Bastrop, referring hundreds of women for delivery each year.

“There's some people who they need to be close; they need to be where they can feel safe because there's nothing worse than it not going how you think it's supposed to be, like having a car birth because you can't get to where you want to be,” Noble said. “Then it's this birth that could have been this amazing, exciting, crazy thing that happened, and instead it's filled with fear.”

Expecting mothers in Bastrop lack nearby options for prenatal care, Wilson said.

“We have a number of women that will show up when it's time to have their babies rather than having had prenatal care,” Willson said. “That presents a little bit of a burden on the hospital system that's here because they're often high risk because they haven't received any prenatal care. ... It's really an undeveloped specialty in our area.”

Prenatal care helps identify possible complications in a pregnancy and lower risks for both mothers and babies, according to information from

“I truly believe that the large majority of emergency complications that happen in pregnancy and birth and postpartum can be prevented by good prenatal care,” Noble said.

Outlier demographics are often the most affected by the lack of pregnancy resources, Noble said.

“I really wish that there were better resources out here for [pregnant women],” Noble said. “Even though it's such a huge town, I know that there are huge demographics of women out here who are not able to be seen—especially the non-English-speaking community.”

The outlook

In 2020, 1,140 births were reported in Bastrop County. Many pregnant individuals travel to Austin for access to private doctors, Wilson said.

“If anything goes wrong, we have to go into Austin, and it shouldn't be that way,” Noble said. “It should be that we have all of the necessary services. Like, [Bastrop is] huge, and we've been huge for a really long time.”