April 10, 2013 — Hospitals in five states were able to lower their rates of early elective deliveries from 28% to about 5% within one year of implementing a quality-improvement program, according to a study published on Monday in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports.
For nearly three decades, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that physicians and hospitals do not perform inductions or caesarean sections before 39 weeks of gestation unless there is a medical reason to do so. However, early elective delivery rates have remained high, likely because women are unaware of the risks or physicians opt for early deliveries as a convenience to themselves or their patients, "Capsules" reports.
According to HHS, early elective deliveries without a medical justification account for about 10% to 15% of U.S. births annually. Previous research has shown that infants born before 39 weeks have significantly increased risks of feeding, breathing and developmental problems.
For the new study, researchers focused on 25 hospitals in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas that adopted new policies and procedures aimed at cutting their rates of early elective deliveries.
The findings indicate that hospitals can overcome economic and cultural barriers to curbing early elective deliveries, according to the March of Dimes, which helped the hospitals set up the program (Galewitz, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 4/8).