RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For years, doctors and patients in Virginia thought it was OK to schedule births before 39 weeks. These births are called early elective delivery.
“After 37 weeks, certainly after 38 weeks, many people felt that it was ok to get these babies delivered,” Dr. Stephen Bendheim with Virginia Physicians for Women said.
But recent research has shown that delivering a child before 39 weeks could have a negative impact on vital organs like the brain, heart, and lungs as they may not be fully developed.
“The great majority of babies born after 37 weeks are going to do fine, but there was an increased risk of complications,” Bendheim explained.
Nationally, Virginia ranked 24th when it came to the number of early elective deliveries. The state had a problem with too many births being scheduled too early. Experts say it was due to a combination of exhausted mothers and doctors who wanted to help their patients.
“When they are done being pregnant they are ready to be done and you pair that with physicians who want to keep their patients happy,” said registered nurse Megan Barefield.
So, hospitals and health care providers decided to do something about the high number of early elective deliveries.
“We increased our education, our patient education starting from the beginning of their OB visits prefacing that it’s best for baby to stay,” Barefield said.
Now, the state has the lowest rate of early elective deliveries in the country, which health care providers say ultimately means healthier babies and mothers long term.