Back to articles

Walla Walla Hospitals Promote Healthy Babies Through Excellent Early Elective Delivery Rates

General

Babies in Walla Walla are getting the best start possible with an increased effort to ensure they are born at full term--39 weeks--instead of earlier. Recent research shows increased short- and long-term health complications and costs for babies born before 39 weeks. This has led to national, state and local efforts to reduce the rate of elective deliveries before this milestone.

Walla Walla's hospitals and physicians have strongly embraced and supported the new standards to reduce the rate of early elective deliveries. Recently released data notes that both Walla Walla General Hospital and Providence St. Mary Medical Center had no elective early deliveries in the reporting period.

"It was a common, accepted practice years ago to deliver a baby early for social reasons – the family was in town, or the physician was going on vacation and the mother wanted to deliver with that specific physician or the husband was going to be out of town, or any number of other social reasons," says Wanda Paisano, who worked as an obstetrics nurse for 20 years at many different hospitals and clinics. She now is the Director of Quality at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

"That doesn’t happen anymore," Paisano says. "Medicine evolves. Standards advance. We now know more about the impact on the baby. We know that delivering a baby electively before 39 weeks increases the baby’s risk. We want to do everything possible to reduce that risk."

Reducing the number of babies born before 39 weeks is an area of increasing focus at both the national and state level. Last year, the statewide average of early elective deliveries dropped by 65 percent--from 15.3 percent in the third quarter of 2010, to 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. The goal for hospitals in Washington State is 5 percent or lower. Detailed data for hospitals by county can be seen at www.wahospitalquality.org.

"Physicians, midwives, and nurses in Walla Walla have embraced these new recommendations. We know how important it is to give babies and families the best start and have been committed to educating patients about waiting until full term to deliver," says Dr. Robert Betz, an obstetrician at Adventist Health/Medical Group and chairman of the OB/Nursery Services Committee at Walla Walla General Hospital.

"The last few weeks of a pregnancy can feel like an eternity to some pregnant mothers. But vital organs like the brain, lungs and liver are still growing and developing until 39 weeks gestation," says Betz.

Hospitals in Walla Walla now will only deliver a baby electively before 39 weeks if there is a significant medical reason to do so.

The effort to reduce early elective deliveries is a partnership between hospitals, physicians, the Washington State Hospital Association, the Washington State Health Care Authority, the Washington State Department of Health, the March of Dimes, midwives, and regional perinatal coordinating nurses.