Memorial Hospital enacts policy for safer deliveries

Memorial Hospital enacts 'Hard Stop Policy' to ensure safer deliveries

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - If you are pregnant, or even thinking about having a baby, there's new information about when to deliver that could make a big difference in the health of your newborn.

In the U.S., about 15 percent of all deliveries are "elective," which is when the doctor and the mom, because of a medical or personal reason, decide on a delivery date and schedule a caesarian section or a time to induce labor. 

It turns out that pushing back that elective delivery, even by just one day, can mean a healthier baby.

Jillion Freckleton-McIntosh is a new mother. Her baby, Tristan, is two days old, has strong lungs and is ready to go home from the hospital.

"His hearing is perfect, heart is perfect, color is perfect," Freckleton-McIntosh said. "Everything is good, no medical complications."

That is exactly the outcome the doctors and nurses at Memorial Regional Hospital want to see, especially with babies like Tristan, whose deliveries are elective.

Unfortunately, that hasn't always been the case. Babies are considered fully developed at 37 weeks' gestation, but when doctors at Memorial looked at the babies born electively between 37 and 39 weeks, they saw a disturbing trend.

"Of those babies born electively, about 14 percent ended up in the NICU," said Dr. Laurie Scott from Memorial Healthcare System.

That added up to 100 babies in just over a year who came to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with things like breathing complications, problems with feeding, and temperature instability.

In an effort to deliver healthier babies, Memorial Hospital implemented something called the "hard stop policy" -- there would be no scheduled deliveries before 39 weeks.

"But here's the great news: Since the hard stop 39-week policy began, not one baby delivered electively has ended up here," Dr. Scott said.

Other studies were even more revealing.

"Even babies born at 38 weeks and 6 days faired more poorly than babies at 39 weeks and 0 days," said Dr. Scott. "So even one day can make a difference in the outcome of the baby."

Because of her husband's employment situation, Tristan's mom wanted to schedule her delivery at 37 weeks. The hard stop policy meant she was induced at exactly 39 weeks instead.

"Because of the baby, the safety of the baby, make sure 37 weeks the baby was fully developed and wait two more weeks to make sure we had the right weight, and that everything is fine. I was fine," Tristan's mother said.

Everything was fine and Tristan's mother is glad she waited two weeks to bring her son into the world.

Dr. Scott has recently presented her findings and said the hard stop policy not only means healthier babies, but since fewer babies are treated in the NICU, the policy also has a positive impact on the cost of the healthcare system.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.