About half of South Carolina hospitals have formally agreed to stop delivering babies early through Cesarean sections that are not medically necessary, in an effort to improve babies' health while reducing costs, a state Hospital Association executive said Friday.
All 45 hospitals in the state with maternity programs intend to sign the commitment, but some still need to identify who on their staff will be the onsite leader, said Dr. Rick Foster, the association's senior vice president of quality and patient safety.
The state's Medicaid agency has partnered with the association and other medical groups to eliminate elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks. The normal length of pregnancy is about 40 weeks. The commitment is part of the Birth Outcomes Initiative, which is aimed at reducing the number of low birth-weight babies.
"We live in a time and society where we want things when we want things. I think that translates to every aspect of our lives," said Megan Branham, director of program services for the March of Dimes' state chapter.
Over the past two decades, she said, the number of infants born before 37 weeks has increased 30 percent, accounting in 2008 for 12 percent of all births nationally. It accounted for 14 percent in South Carolina, or one in every seven babies born. Branham said one reason for the trend is moms deciding to give birth early for non-medical reasons.