Early Elective Deliveries Down in California, Still More Work to be Done

(Getty Images)

Doctors, advocates also working to reduce rates of babies born by caesarian-section. (Getty Images)

By Brittany Patterson

In California, about 500,000 babies are born every year. Statewide efforts to reduce early deliveries and maternal death have netted improvements, but more work is still to be done, said advocates who gathered this week to share notes on how to improve maternal and child health across the state.

One specific bright spot was reduction of early elective deliveries — where a woman chooses to deliver her baby early, defined as between 36 and 39 weeks. These are scheduled deliveries that are not medically necessary. But babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have feeding and breathing problems, trouble keeping themselves warm, and infections.

In 2010, 14.7 percent of births in California were scheduled before 39 weeks. Today, in-part because of intense campaigning, that rate has dropped to less than three percent of total births at about half of the state’s hospitals. The effort to decrease the practice was spearheaded by the March of Dimes, but strengthened by data collected and synthesized by the California Maternity Data Center. Continue reading

Surprising Advantage for Older Moms: More Likely to Live Longer

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

As a woman who had not just her last child, but also her first child after age 33, I enthusiastically clicked on the NPR story in my Facebook feed this morning.

NPR reports that older moms — women who had their last child after age 33 — have twice the odds of “exceptional longevity” as women who had their last child before age 29. This “exceptional longevity” is defined as living to age 95. The research is according to a study published this week in the journal Menopause.

I got over the fact that “older moms” are women who had their last child after 33, which seems kind of young to me.

NPR explains why there may be a connection between bearing children later and longevity: Continue reading

Low-Income Latinas Turn to Group Visits for Prenatal Care

Araceli eats fruit during a break following an exercise on healthy eating during a Centering Pregnancy group in San Francisco. (Deborah Svoboda/The World)

During a Centering Pregnancy group prenatal appointment in San Francisco, Araceli (left) eats fruit following an exercise on healthy eating. (Deborah Svoboda/The World)

Once a month, Irma Vásquez goes for prenatal check-ups at a clinic in San Francisco’s Mission District. But her appointment looks nothing like a doctor’s appointment. Instead of getting one-on-one care, she meets with 12 other Latina immigrants for a group visit.

Studies show group prenatal care leads to better birth outcomes.
The women meet at a community clinic and first take their own blood pressure, weigh themselves, and write down the results. Then they take turns seeing a midwife in a makeshift exam area in the corner of the room. The midwife checks each baby’s heart rate and talks privately with each woman.

Afterward they all sit in a circle and talk — in Spanish — about everything from eating healthy to dealing with domestic problems at home. Finally, there’s group meditation. Vásquez says this is her favorite part.

“It clears your mind of all the things that are going on around you, going on outside,” she says in Spanish. “It makes you more relaxed.” Continue reading

New Federal Plan to Reduce Early Elective Births

Delivering early–for no medical cause–can harm babies.

By Emily Bazar, Center for Health Reporting

(Nathan LeClair: Flickr)

(Nathan LeClair: Flickr)

Now the feds are jumping in.

This morning, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a national campaign to reduce elective deliveries of babies before 39 weeks of pregnancy, saying the effort will improve care and save millions.

Under the “Strong Start” initiative, the government will work with hospitals across the country that have joined the Partnership for Patients, a voluntary effort to reduce preventable injuries and complications.

It also will partner with organizations such as the March of Dimes and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which have taken strong stands against early elective births.

… up to 10 percent of all deliveries are scheduled during weeks 37 and 38 without a medical reason. 

The federal government now joins a fast-growing movement to cut early elective births. As I wrote last week, nearly 100 hospitals across California have adopted policies to discourage or prohibit doctors from scheduling deliveries – either by inducing labor or performing cesarean sections – between weeks 37 and 39 of pregnancy without a medical reason.

Continue reading