WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Five to 40 percent or more of births in the United States are induced early without any good medical reason, according to a new hospital-by-hospital report.
And there is tremendous variation in the rates documented by hospitals voluntarily reporting these "early elective induction" deliveries, even within the same community. In Los Angeles, for instance, the rates of babies delivered early without a good medical reason ranged from 4 percent to 29 percent. In Boston, the rates reported by different hospitals ranged from near zero to 27 percent.
"This is the first real evidence that the practice of scheduling newborn deliveries without medical reasons is common and varies among hospitals," said Leah Binder, CEO of Leapfrog Group, an employer-driven hospital quality watchdog group. Leapfrog announced the findings of its annual hospital report at a Wednesday news conference.
"The information is extremely disturbing," she continued. "We are calling on hospitals to put policies in place to prevent early elective deliveries."
According to Binder, "elective inductions have now outpaced medical inductions."
The consequences of such deliveries can be grave. "The last few weeks of a pregnancy are critical to the development of the baby's brain, lung and liver," said Dr. Alan Fleishman, senior vice president and medical director of the March of Dimes Foundation. "Babies born just a few weeks early have feeding problems, jaundice, inability to hold temperature and tremendous increased costs. Every week counts."
Babies delivered early also face a higher risk of death, spending time in a neonatal intensive care unit and life-long health problems, according to a statement from the Leapfrog Group.
Plus, using gestational dating to figure out a delivery time can be "grossly inadequate" unless a woman has an ultrasound exam in t
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