Every week of pregnancy is crucial to a newborn’s health. On the heels of March of Dimes unveiling a new public education campaign, called “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait,” to raise awareness about the important development that occurs during those last few weeks, 17 Oregon hospitals have come together to agree to put a “hard stop” on elective non-medically necessary inductions and C-sections before 39 weeks gestation by September 1, 2011.
“A ‘hard stop’ means that a Labor and Delivery Unit receiving a request to schedule a delivery by either labor induction or C-section without documented medical necessity will simply say ‘no’, and the patient will not be admitted or scheduled,” explained Dr. Duncan Neilson, VP Surgical Specialties at Legacy Health. “A list of approved medical reasons for early delivery will be available to all schedulers and will be updated as needed by the medical leadership of the program.”
Out of the 53 birthing hospitals in the state, the 17 agreeing to the “hard stop” by September 1st delivered over 22,600 babies between them in 2010; making up 49.4% of all Oregon births that year.
“This level of voluntary cooperation among obstetric providers and hospitals is unprecedented in the state of Oregon, and reflects the high level of consensus and commitment to this important project,” said Dr. Neilson.
Research has shown that a baby’s brain nearly doubles in weight in the last few weeks of pregnancy, and important lung, liver and kidney development also occurs at this time. Ten percent of all infants experienced complications when born electively before 39 weeks, and the risk of death is nearly double for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy, when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.
“With more babies being born at 39 and 40 weeks of gestation instead of 36, 37, or 38 weeks, we should see a large number of complications decrease in babies including: respiratory distress, need for admission to neonatal intensive care, and jaundice,” said Dr. Aaron Caughey, Chair of the OB/GYN Department at Oregon Health & Science University.
March of Dimes Greater Oregon Chapter, in conjunction with the Oregon Health Leadership Council, is issuing a community challenge to all remaining hospitals in the state to join the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait campaign by committing to a “hard stop” on all elective non-medically necessary deliveries prior to 39 weeks.
The 17 hospitals already committed to this effort are: Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), the hospitals of Providence Health and Services, the hospitals of Legacy Health, Kaiser Permanente, Tuality Health Care, and Adventist Medical Center.
“In order to be successful, our patients are going to need to understand the value in avoiding early term elective deliveries,” said Dr. Mark Tomlinson of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. “The community-wide collaboration will emphasize the importance of the message as well as facilitate broad spreading of the information.”
“The March of Dimes campaign, Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait, encourages women to allow labor to begin on its own if their pregnancy is healthy and aims to dispel the myth that it’s completely safe to schedule a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical need,” said Joanne Rogovoy, State Director of Program Services and Public Affairs for March of Dimes Greater Oregon Chapter.
Babies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life. Here’s why babies need 39 weeks:
- Important organs, like the brain, lungs and liver, get all the time they need to develop.
- Babies are less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.
- Babies born too soon often are too small. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies born too small.
- Babies can suck and swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after they’re born. Babies born early sometimes can’t do these things.
As part of Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait March of Dimes will send each hospital agreeing to a “hard stop” patient information and education materials about the risks of delivering prior to 39 weeks.
Information about the new Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait educational campaign can be found at marchofdimes.com/39weeks.
For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. For free access to national, state, county and city-level maternal and infant health data, visit PeriStats, at marchofdimes.com/PeriStats.