NMMC Women’s Hospital is one of 100 hospitals around the country participating in a national initiative to reduce the rate of medically unnecessary cesarean deliveries and inductions scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy. University of Mississippi Medical Center is the only other Mississippi hospital chosen for the March of Dimes initiative, which is providing $10,000 package of software in addition to other professional development resources.
Choosing to deliver babies before 39 weeks gestation puts them at risk for respiratory and cognitive problems, and obstetric and pediatric professional associations recommend against them unless there is a pressing medical need.
“Babies that make it to 39 weeks or longer have fewer risks than those born prior to that time,” said Tupelo obstetrician Dr. Ronny Young, who also serves as chief of the NMMC medical staff.
Mississippi has the highest rates of premature birth and infant mortality in the nation, said Dina Ray, state director for the Mississippi chapter of the March of Dimes. More than half the babies in the state are delivered by cesarean section, although it’s not clear what percentage of those deliveries are early and not medically necessary.
NMMC Women’s cesarean rate is much lower than the state average, but hospital officials are hoping to reduce it further.
“We’ve always required physicians to give us a reason,” for scheduled cesarean sections and inductions, said Ellen Friloux, NMMC administrator for women’s and children’s services. But they haven’t routinely tracked and reviewed through a peer review process.