Most moms-to-be are aware that the steps to having a healthy baby begin long before birth, but many may not understand the negative health impact of delivering a child prior to 39 weeks without medical reason.
“The last weeks of pregnancy are important,” said Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, March of Dimes Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. “Babies aren’t just putting on weight. They are undergoing important development of the brain, lungs and other vital organs.”
Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants, the March of Dimes says. Although the overall threat is small, the risk of death more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities. Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities.
As part of the March of Dimes campaign to reduce the number of early elective deliveries (EED), the agency is partnering with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas Hospital Association (KHA) and the Kansas Healthcare Collaborative (KHC) to recognize Kansas birthing hospitals that pledge to eliminate early elective deliveries.
“We commend Mercy Hospital Fort Scott for reducing the number of elective inductions and cesarean deliveries performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy to less than five percent of all deliveries,” Jarris added.
“I’m extremely proud of the work to reduce the number of early elective deliveries at Mercy Hospital Fort Scott,” said Reta Baker, Mercy Hospital president. “This took great teamwork from our Mercy physicians, nurses and obstetric unit. It is a tremendous accomplishment that will give many more babies a healthy start in life.”
Dr. Larry Seals, Mercy OB/GYN, said, “Teamwork is the key. Collectively, we recognized the problem of unnecessary early deliveries and put in place policies to avoid scheduling c-sections or inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy, except when medically necessary.”
In the past five years, Mercy Hospital has reduced the number of EEDs from 34% in 2011 to zero in 2016.
“The recognition by the March of Dimes helps us spread the message that ‘Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait,’” Seals added. “The March of Dimes campaign urges women to wait for labor to begin on its own if their pregnancy is healthy, rather than scheduling delivery before 39 weeks.”