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Early Elective U.S. Births Drop

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) — Many U.S. hospitals reduced the number of early elective deliveries — birth before 39 weeks — in 2011 from 2010, a hospital quality watchdog group says.

The Leapfrog Group, an employer-driven hospital quality watchdog group, said 39 percent of reporting hospitals kept their early elective delivery rate to 5 percent or less, compared with 30 percent of reporting hospitals the year before.

Since Leapfrog highlighted data on this unsafe practice last year, early elective deliveries emerged as a priority issue for national and local health organizations, the National Priorities Partnership and through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Partnership for Patients campaign.

Childbirth Connection, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the March of Dimes said a fetus needs at least 39 completed weeks of gestation to fully develop.

There are medical reasons to schedule a delivery before this time including the high blood pressure at the end of pregnancy or broken membranes before labor begins, but these are rare, Leapfrog officials said.

In 2011, 757 hospitals voluntarily reported their rate of early elective deliveries through the Leapfrog Hospital Survey. The average rate fell from 17 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2011. Several states have an average rate at or below the national average, including California, Colorado, and Massachusetts.

Ohio reported the lowest average rate at 7.6 percent, while the average rate of hospitals reporting from Alabama was 22.5 percent.

The four largest health plans — Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint — said they will continue their awareness campaign to expectant mothers that the last weeks of pregnancy are important, there are risks for mothers and babies if births are scheduled before 39 weeks for non-medical reasons and expectant mothers should investigate the rates of early elective deliveries for hospitals in their community.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

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