New Bern, NC – INTRO - A project sponsored by the March of Dimes is working with 40 North Carolina hospitals to slow the rate of elective induced pregnancies in order to benefit both mother and child. George Olsen has more.
The following words will be no surprise to any woman who has given birth.
"For some women pregnancy is exhausting."
Angela Still, the administrator for the Women's Center at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
"There can be some normal discomforts of pregnancy, but again they are discomforts, so they don't sleep as well, there's a lot of heartburn, they may be uncomfortable because the baby may be large for its gestational age, and therefore its uncomfortable those last few weeks."
which prompts some women to ask their doctors about inducing pregnancy a few weeks early from the full-term of 39-or-40 weeks. It's this practice that the March of Dimes 39-week project is seeking to eliminate. Currently working with 40 hospitals statewide including Pitt County Memorial Hospital the March of Dimes says they've been able to secure a 44% reduction in elective deliveries among the participating hospitals. That's in line with what's happened with PCMH.
"When we started in October 2009 we had a 6 percent rate of scheduled inductions prior to 39 weeks and in June of this year we dropped that to 3 percent and over the last 3-4 months we've been 2-3 percent."
The methods used to get this reduction pure-and-simple information provided both to mothers and medical providers stating that there's still a lot going on in utero in those final weeks crucial to an infant's well-being.
"Between weeks 36 & 38 babies truly are finishing their growing before delivery. They're gaining a lot of weight, they are gaining fat stores that are going to help keep them warm after delivery, it is important that babies can regulate their body temperature after delivery and after they come out if they have more baby fat, so to speak, they can actually keep their temperature better. At 35 weeks a baby's brain only weighs 2/3rds of what it will weigh at 39-40 weeks."
The March of Dimes says babies born just a few weeks early are more likely to deal with jaundice, hypothermia, breathing and feeding difficulties and delayed brain development. And the risks of delivering early don't fall entirely on the baby.
"Close to the due date the body does get ready for labor and delivery so that when the contractions of labor start the body responds easier around your due date, but earlier, much earlier than the due date and even up to 39 weeks the cervix is not ready to dilate and deliver a baby. With that being said, when we induce mothers prior to 39 weeks gestation without a medical indication, we do see a higher indication of cesarean delivery, and a cesarean delivery is a major surgery."
Having a cesarean provides a higher risk of infection or bleeding than delivering vaginally as well as a longer recovery time. Births prior to full-term are also more expensive the Institute of Medicine says that pre-term births costs the United States more than $26 billion annually. But money ultimately isn't going to be the motivating force behind a reduction in elective deliveries. Much like the very simple fact that mothers know that pregnancy is difficult, there's another simple fact that the March of Dimes hopes will motivate moms to hold off any desire to deliver early.
"All mothers would like a healthy baby and to remind them that babies do much better if they remain in utero for the duration of an intended pregnancy 39-40 weeks really helps and to remind them what the complications can be if babies are delivered early.
Angela Still is the administrator for the Women's Center at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. I'm George Olsen.