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Tuality joins 16 other hospitals in “Healthy Babies” program

August 18, 2011

For immediate release
Contact:  Gerry Ewing / 503-681-1654

Tuality Healthcare is joining 16 other Oregon hospitals in a campaign to stop the trend of early, non-medically necessary births before 39 weeks gestation. The campaign, sponsored by the March of Dimes and the Oregon Health Leadership Council, will put a “hard stop” on elective, non-medically necessary induced labors and C-sections before 39 weeks.

The campaign called “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait” goes into effect Sept. 1.  The reason for the campaign, according to Megan Bird, MD, president-elect of the Tuality medical officers group, is it is much safer for mother and child to have a birth in the 39-41 week gestation time frame. For example, said Dr. Bird, inducing labor during the 37-39 week period doubles the risk of the baby dying.

A “hard stop” means a hospital’s labor and delivery unit receiving a request for either a pre-39 week early induced labor or a C-section will say “no” unless there is documented medical necessity. One of the problems historically, according to Dr. Bird, was it was hard to tell a heavily pregnant woman “no.” “It just safer at 39 to 41 weeks,” said Dr. Bird. “It’s the ideal time.”

Each hospital will have a list of approved medical reasons for early delivery and the list will be updated as needed. Research has shown early, elective births can have numerous complications. The possibility of death is nearly double for babies born at 37 weeks. The baby’s brain nearly doubles in weight in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Lung, liver and kidney development can also be affected by an early, elective birth.  Other potential problems include respiratory distress, jaundice and the cost of being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.

Oregon has 53 birthing hospitals. The 17 hospitals in the “Healthy Babies” program delivered almost 50 percent of all Oregon births in 2010. The March of Dimes Greater Oregon chapter and the Oregon Health Leadership Council are issuing a challenge to the remaining Oregon hospitals to join the “Healthy Babies” campaign. The 17 hospital involved in the program are: Tuality Healthcare, Oregon Health & Science University, Adventist Medical Center, and the hospitals of Providence Health and Services, Legacy Health and Kaiser Permanente.