St. Clair checkup: newborn news

St. Clair Hospital is a national leader in the effort to improve the health of newborn infants and reduce premature births. The hospital has eliminated all elective induction of labor before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Early elective induction was popular with expectant mothers in the 1990s, when medical experts believed that delivering a newborn  at 36 to 39 weeks was safe. (Forty weeks is considered full term.) By 2006, roughly one in five pregnant women had their labor induced, mostly for convenience. New research indicates it is risky: early delivery shortchanges the infant of valuable time in utero for ongoing growth and development of organs, especially the lungs and brain.

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Deborah A. Lenart, M.D.

“We are now aware that a few weeks makes a difference for the infant,” says Deborah A. Lenart, M.D., chief of Obstetrical Services at St. Clair, and an OB/GYN with Advanced Women’s Care of Pittsburgh.  “Early induction, when there is no medical indication, puts the baby at risk for problems associated with prematurity: respiratory distress, difficulty maintaining body temperature, poor feeding, slow growth and infection. The infant may require the specialized care of the neonatal ICU, including ventilation and oxygen, and will not be able to go home with the mother. There can be long term medical and developmental consequences.”

Early elective induction is a national healthcare quality indicator and the focus of a major public awareness campaign for the March of Dimes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommend that hospitals strive for an early induction rate of 3 percent or less. St. Clair’s has been been zero for several years, placing it in the top 10 percent of U. S. hospitals.

“In our prenatal classes and in our community outreach programs, we are educating the public that a healthy infant is a full-term infant,” says Dr. Lenart. To contact Advanced Women’s Care of Pittsburgh, P.C., please call 412-942-1866.

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