Early Elective Delivery

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Unnecessary Early Deliveries Plummet in Multi-State Study, Includes California

American children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries. (Photo: Comstock)

The rate of early elective deliveries dropped from about 28 percent to under 5 percent. (Photo: Comstock)

Hospitals in California were part of a multi-state approach designed to dramatically reduce early elective deliveries of babies. The result? In one calendar year, early deliveries — those without a medical cause for doing so — dropped from about 28 percent to just under 5 percent.

“What everyone is amazed about is we did it in a year,” said Leslie Kowalewski with the California chapter of the March of Dimes, which helped hospitals in setting up the new protocol for the study.

The findings from the study were published this week in Obstetrics and Gynecology. For more than 30 years, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that women and their doctors wait until at least 39 weeks of gestation to deliver a baby. Delivering earlier is associated with health complications for the babies, including breathing and developmental problems.

Slippery Slope With Early Deliveries

But a “slippery slope” had developed around early elective deliveries, says Dr. Elliott Main, a high-risk obstetrician and director of obstetrics quality at Sutter Health. “Your due date was 40 weeks, and then we thought 39 was just as good. Then it became 38 and a half, then 38, and that’s the slippery slope.” Continue reading