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Why mothers should avoid early elective deliveries

Chris and Jenni

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is trying to discourage mothers from early elective deliveries. The insurance company is sending out information to doctors and health care facilities, warning about problems that can come from delivering babies early.

One-third of the babies born in 2013 in upstate New York were delivered before they were full term, and one-third of those were delivered by cesarean section, according to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Many of these cesareans are medically necessary. But some are delivered early for convenience sake, according to Mary Beth McCall, chief medical officer in the insurance company’s central New York office.

"We do know it’s sometimes hard for doctors and patients to have conversations, especially if the mom comes in and says, ‘my mother’s coming next week, can we do the C-section now, rather than waiting.’ Because of having help, or the right dates, or vacation.”

To make it clear the dangers of early elective delivery, the insurance company has come up with an infographic that explains some of the reasons why it’s not a good for the baby to deliver earlier than 39 weeks if possible. For example, McCall describes the impact on a child born at 37 weeks:

"They’re 60 percent more likely to be admitted to a neonatal ICU. They’re a little less likely to be able to feed easily. They’re lungs may be less mature and they may have a higher incidence of respiratory distress syndrome,” she said.

McCall also says a baby’s brain grows almost a third of its total weight between weeks 35 and 39.

In coming years, according to McCall, experts will have a better sense of just how many of these early elective deliveries have to do with convenience, because hospitals will be requiring physicians to explain why a cesarean was necessary.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.