Memorial Health February 11, 2016

Memorial University Medical Center has been awarded Georgia’s 39 Weeks recognition banner for reducing the number of elective inductions and cesarean deliveries performed before 39 completed weeks of pregnancy. This will give more babies a healthy start in life, according to the March of Dimes, which presented the award.

This quality improvement program, sponsored by the March of Dimes, Georgia Department of Public Health, the Georgia Hospital Association, and the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, asks all obstetric hospitals in Georgia to sign a pledge to implement firm policies to reduce early elective deliveries and support ongoing efforts to reduce Georgia’s infant mortality rate. The program encourages hospitals to adopt the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines to not induce labor or perform cesarean sections before 39 weeks gestation without a medical reason.

In order to receive banner recognition, hospitals have to have clear policies in place to prevent early elective deliveries, plus demonstrate data that shows their rate is 5 percent or less. Memorial University Medical Center has eliminated all early elective deliveries.

“Our goal is to promote quality patient outcomes and deliver patient- and family-centered care,” said Carla Edwards, director of Women’s Services at Memorial. “With the support of our physicians and administration, we are educating our patients about the importance of giving babies a full 39 weeks to grow and develop—and it’s paid off.”

“We’re proud of our expert team of physicians and nurses who practice evidence-based obstetrical care and put the health of mothers and babies first,” said Maggie Gill, president and CEO of Memorial Health.

“The last weeks of pregnancy are important. Babies aren’t just putting on weight. They are undergoing important development of the brain, lungs, and other vital organs,” said Scott Berns, M.D., MPH, senior vice president and deputy medical director for the March of Dimes. “I commend Memorial University Medical Center for being a champion for babies with their quality improvement effort.”

Worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon each year and more than one million of those infants die as a result of their early births. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. Recent research by the March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that although the overall threat is small, the risk of death more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.

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.