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Fewer Preterm Babies are Being Delivered in the U.S.

Update Date: Mar 04, 2014 03:23 PM EST

Carrying out a pregnancy to full term can be extremely beneficial for both mother and child. Government agencies and programs have continuously encouraged doctors and patients to give birth full term instead of scheduling early Caesarean sections, and according to a new report, these efforts appear to be paying off.

The report, conduced by Leapfrog Group, which is a nonprofit organization that acts as a hospital quality watchdog, examined the data that were voluntarily provided by hospitals. The report found that the rate of scheduled early deliveries for the country as a whole has fallen. In 2010, the percent was 17 and in 2012, it fell to five percent. This calculation was done based on the data provided from nearly 1,000 hospitals throughout the country. The hospitals had agreed to try to meet Leapfrog's target goal of getting the early delivery rate under five percent. So far, one-third of the hospitals still have rates above five percent. Some hospitals' rates are still extremely high at 20 to 20 percent.

"This is a remarkable reduction," said Edward McCabe, chief medical officer at the March of Dimes, reported by the Los Angeles Times. "It involves changing the culture of the hospital and that is always very hard to do."

In Massachusetts where this program was started as a collaborative effort with hospital heads, obstetricians-gynecologists and the March of Dimes, all of the maternity hospitals that provided data for this report reached that target rate. Nine out of the 50 licensed hospitals in this state did not provide any information to Leapfrog.

The researchers found that from 2010 to 2013, the percentage of babies that were delivered early via scheduled induced deliveries or C-sections fell from 15 percent to one percent in Massachusetts. Scheduled deliveries often occur before week 39 and for no medical reasons. More evidence has suggested that babies born between weeks 37 and 39 have a higher chance of developing problem, such as difficulty feeding.

"It's a success story," said Dr. Glenn Markenson, chief of maternal fetal medicine at Baystate Medical Center according to the Boston Globe. Baystate was one of the first centers to forbid early deliveries for no medical reasons.

"Healthcare takes a long time to change," said Leah Binder, chief executive of Leapfrog. "This is one of the most extraordinary examples of progress in healthcare that I've seen in my career."

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