As featured in Wednesday’s edition of the Memphis Daily News, Baptist Memorial Women’s Hospital in Memphis this month celebrates 10 years of delivering babies — more than 50,000 since 2001.
And administrator and CEO Anita Vaughn said one of the hospital’s recent successes has involved reducing the number of elective deliveries performed before babies reach full term, as reported through the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, which compares hospitals’ performances based on national standards of safety, quality and efficiency.
According to the Memphis Business Group on Health, despite research showing that early delivery increases risks for newborns and contributes to higher health care costs, the overall number of elective deliveries continues to rise.
Reasons range from end-of-pregnancy discomfort to scheduling deliveries around other events.
But the last three weeks in the womb represent a significant period in a baby’s development, as organs continue to develop, and medical professionals say it’s best to stay pregnant for a minimum of 39 weeks, if possible.
“This region of the country had gotten fairly comfortable, for a number of reasons, with delivering babies early,” Vaughn said. “This required a culture change and taking a hard-stand to say babies would not be delivered between 37 and 39 weeks unless there’s a medical reason. No social deliveries.”
Leapfrog set the standard for deliveries made early at less than 12 percent in 2010 and will reduce it to less than 5 percent this year.
Baptist Memorial Women’s Hospital has already met the new bar; the hospital reports that less than 5 percent of its infants are electively delivered before reaching 40 weeks gestation.
Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis has also reported that less than 5 percent of infants delivered at its facility are electively delivered before reaching full term.
Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown, Methodist South Hospital and The MED have each reported that less than 12 percent of babies born at their respective facilities are electively delivered before reaching full term.