The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby’s health because important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until the end of pregnancy. A baby’s birth should not be scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy, unless medically necessary.

The Leapfrog Group, a coalition of public and private healthcare purchasers, reports that hospital rates of early elective deliveries range from less than 5% to more than 40%. The 773 hospitals from around the country that voluntarily provided Leapfrog with information on this measure reported over 57,000 early elective deliveries by cesarean section or induction during the reporting period. The variation in hospital rates has long been talked about in the health care community, but Leapfrog’s release of 2010 data is the first real evidence that the practice of scheduling newborn deliveries before 39 weeks without a medical reason is common and varied among hospitals even in the same state or community.

Elimination of early elective deliveries requires effort on behalf of physicians, nurses and hospital leaders. Successful implementation of a 39 week induction program can only come from a commitment to providing care that is patient-centered and safe.



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