Mamas on Bedrest: Don’t let your baby be born too soon!

January 27th, 2011

Too Many Babies Born Too Soon!

I just came across alarming articles reporting that at some US hospitals, elective labor induction and early birth (before 39 weeks gestation) is as high as 40%. The really alarming factor is that there is no evidenced-based medically necessary reason for these inductions and early births. This is mind boggling! Why would some in the obstetrical community intentionally initiate preterm labor and premature birth when research and medical evidence has clearly shown that there is significant risk to maternal and fetal/neonatal morbidity and mortality?

Before moving forward, I want to make a clear point. There are times when labor and delivery do have to be induced. In these cases, continuing the pregnancy would increase the risk of serious complications, perhaps even death, to the mother, the baby or both. But this is not what the articles I am reading are talking about. These articles and reports are talking about inducing labor and creating premature infants when there  is no medically indicated reason.

The Reporting Source

The articles are citing data presented by LeapFrog Group a non-profit patient advocacy and medical watch dog organization. LeapFrog was surprised to find in its annual hospital survey that as many as 40% of hospitals have high (medically unnecessary) early induction rates. LeapFrog noted that some 50% of hospitals had induction rates of 12% or below, LeapFrog’s target goal for 2010. Additionally, LeapFrog found that 29% of hospitals had induction rates below 5% indicating that low induction rates are achievable for all hospitals.

What Pregnancy and Prematurity Experts Have To Say

“The last few weeks of a pregnancy are critical to the development of the baby’s brain, lung and liver,” said Dr. Alan Fleishman, senior vice president and medical director of The March of Dimes Foundation. “Babies born just a few weeks early have feeding problems, jaundice, inability to hold temperature and tremendous increased costs. Every week counts.”

Babies delivered early also face a higher risk of death, spending time in a neonatal intensive care unit and life-long health problems, according to a statement from the Leapfrog Group.

According to Maureen Corry, Childbirth Connection’s executive director, a recent survey found that the leading reason (accounting for about 25 percent of early births) was caregiver concern that the mother was overdue. About 19 percent were medical inductions, another 19 percent were due to the mother’s desire “to get the pregnancy over with,” and the final one (17 percent) came from concern about the size of the baby. According to Fleischman, large babies aren’t a valid reason for early delivery.

Mamas on bedrest, don’t let your baby be born too soon. If your obstetrician recommends an early induction and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason why, have a frank discussion and ask them to explain clearly and give medical evidence as to why you should be induced.  LeapFrog also recommends that you get the induction rates of your Obstetrician and hospital and also gives additional resources to learn about your provider or hospital.

Stay tuned to our next blogs which will give more frank information from ChildBirth Connection and the March of Dimes on labor induction.

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