Banner Health supports March of Dimes campaign to limit early deliveries in support of fetal development
PHOENIX (June 23, 2011) -- Beginning July 18, Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country, will no longer schedule elective cesarean sections and labor inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless specific medical criteria can be demonstrated.
This decision, supported by March of Dimes and other respected health care organizations, will apply to nearly 30,000 deliveries in the 19 Banner hospitals that provide obstetrical care. It is an effort to underscore, unless there is a medical reason why mom or baby is having medical problems, nature knows best when it comes to the time of delivery.
“We want to help our families to understand that babies need time to fully develop in the womb,” says Ken Welch, MD, obstetrician and Banner Health leader. “As we become better at caring for pre-term infants, the community has come to believe that an early delivery is a safe delivery. It is our responsibility to communicate that is simply not true.”
A full-term pregnancy is more than the advertised nine months. It is closer to 10 months, or more specifically 39-40 weeks. Yet ongoing research and now a new national study have identified specific health advantages for babies that are born after 39 weeks gestation. Eliminating elective deliveries before 39 weeks is supported by American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and The Joint Commission.
A study by March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported in May found that, while not a common occurrence, risk of newborn death was 50 percent less in babies born at 39 weeks or later. The study was published in the June 2011 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Other research has suggested that babies born at full term have fewer hearing and vision problems, fewer feeding problems and they are less likely to deliver at a low birth weight. The brain, lungs and eyes are in the final stages of development in the final weeks of pregnancy, and imaging studies indicate that the brains of infants born after 39 weeks are notably larger than younger gestation babies.
In 2010, 42 percent of babies born at Banner Health hospitals were delivered in advance of 39 weeks. Some of those deliveries were a medical intervention to protect mother or baby, and some were spontaneous deliveries. An unknown number were elective c-sections or inductions.
“In the past, convenience, scheduling conflicts, general discomfort and other factors were sometimes given consideration when determining a delivery plan,” said Dr. Welch. “By changing our policy at Banner Health to encourage full-term, healthy pregnancies and deliveries, we are standing by our commitment to excellence in patient care—for both mother and baby.”
The primary risks of prematurity include: difficulty breathing, hearing and vision problems, intestinal problems, learning and development disabilities and even bleeding or fluid in the brain. These will not occur in all newborns that arrive early, but the risks remain.
Earlier this month, March of Dimes unveiled a new public education campaign to raise awareness about the important development that occurs during those last few weeks.
The campaign, called “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait,” encourages women to allow labor to begin on its own if their pregnancy is healthy. It aims to dispel the myth that it’s safe to schedule a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical need. Information about the new Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait educational campaign can be found at marchofdimes.com/39weeks.
Only 25 percent of women know a full-term pregnancy should last at least 39 weeks, according to research published in the December 2009 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
About Banner Health
Headquartered in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the country's largest nonprofit health care systems. Located in seven states, Banner Health owns or manages 23 health care facilities as well as physician practices and nationally recognized research centers. To learn more go to www.BannerHealth.com
About March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit http://www.marchofdimes.com/default.html or ttp://www.nacersano.org/. For free access to national, state, county and city-level maternal and infant health data, visit PeriStats,
- Jennifer Pool, Banner Health, 480-412-3218 office or 602-448-2235 cell
- Marcia Scott, Lavidge Public Relations, 480-998-2600, ext. 569