A report I read about yesterday in the New York Times and heard on NPR reminded me of an earlier topic I blogged about a few weeks back: the alarming number of babies delivered through premature elective Caesarian sections (C-sections). According to the report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the United States has a disturbingly high infant mortality rate – a strain on the entire health care system – and it’s mainly because of premature births.
The report nails down the increasing number of C-sections used to deliver babies before the full 39 week term recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as one of the major factors leading to such shocking mortality statistics. Newborn babies delivered before full term are at risk for serious health complications and in too many cases, don’t survive.
So why such a high number of premature C-section births? Research shows there is a sharp increase in C-sections and the reasons vary, ranging from avoiding holiday hospital stays to scheduling around vacation plans. But whatever the reason mothers and physicians schedule elective C-sections before a pregnancy reaches full term 39 weeks, it’s downright dangerous. A growing body of research reveals that newborns delivered prior to 39 weeks are two-times more likely to end up in the NICU than babies born at 39 to 42 weeks.
That’s why UnitedHealthcare is working with physicians, hospitals and the March of Dimes to reduce the number of elective C-sections. We’ve shared the startling data with all OB/GYN doctors and 4,800 hospitals in our national network and now inform all expectant parents of the risks in our pregnancy pamphlets and online resources. And it’s working. Since we began to spread the word, there has been a 46% decline of NICU admissions!
As anyone can see in the New York Times report, premature births are dangerous, costly, and far too common. If we keep working to eliminate elective C-sections and allow newborn babies to grow to full term, we can not only reduce the cost of health care, but also significantly lower the number of infant mortalities in the United States – a saving grace for the health care system, and a relief to all parents.