Early elective births are becoming a thing of the past on the Peninsula. Rates have plummeted since 2008, when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, issued a recommendation that women should wait until the 39th week of completed pregnancy before opting for delivery. This year's report from the Leapfrog Group, a hospital watchdog group, shows local hospitals achieving well below the 13 percent average in Virginia and the group's 5 percent target rate.
Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News, where more than 1,600 babies are born each year, achieved a 0 percent rate of early inductions in 2012, and Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, with more than 960 babies delivered, hit a 1.3 percent rate, down from 3.2 percent. Riverside opted not to participate in the Leapfrog survey this year, but reported that it reached a 0.2 percent rate in 2011, for which it received recognition from the March of Dimes, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy babies.
At one time, babies were believed to be full term once they reached 36 weeks. Now, it's known that critical brain, lung and liver development occurs after that. Leapfrog's report estimates the additional costs for neonatal care from too-early elective deliveries amounts to $1 billion annually. The March of Dimes, ACOG and the American Academy of Pediatrics all support educational efforts teaching the medical importance of allowing babies to reach full term.
Diana Behling, manager of Sentara's Ob Right program, which promotes best practices for women and babies across the health system, said the Williamsburg hospital's rate had dropped from 11 percent in 2010 to 1.3 percent in 2012 — and to 0 percent since the survey — thanks to its concerted educational efforts. "It's a collaboration between physicians, nurses and patients to wait until 39 weeks," she said, explaining that it involves scheduling issues and managing deliveries along with patient convenience. "There are many compelling, heart-tugging reasons for early elective deliveries. We have a very mobile population with people coming and going on deployments. … And the end of pregnancy is not so much a fun time in a woman's life," she added. Behling is now part of a statewide task force of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association and the Medical Society of Virginia to get hospitals statewide to sign on to the importance of full-term deliveries.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times