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High Number of Early Elective Deliveries in California Hospitals May Lead to Birth Injuries

According to the hospital quality watchdog The Leapfrog Group, some California hospitals are electively delivering more than 40 percent of newborn babies early for no valid medical reason.

This is an alarming statistic since early elective deliveries can lead to an increased risk of birth injuries, continuing health problems, and even death.

According to Leapfrog, 57,000 early elective deliveries were conducted in 2010 by the 773 hospitals surveyed. An early elective delivery is defined as a cesarean or induction delivery that occurs before 39 weeks without medical justification.

The rates of early elective deliveries varied widely among California hospitals from rates lower than 5percent to rates that exceeded 60 percent. Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center’s rate was among the lowest in the state at 4.9 percent. However, several California hospitals exceeded Leapfrog’s recommended rate of 12 percent.

  • UC San Diego Health System: 21.7%
  • University Of California, Irvine Medical Center: 26.2%
  • Huntington Hospital: 38%
  • Methodist Hospital Of Southern California: 40.3%
  • Los Robles Hospital And Medical Center: 42%
  • Torrance Memorial Medical Center: 44.9%
  • St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital: 46.8%
  • Riverside Community Hospital: 55.1%
  • El Camino Hospital: 64.8%

Early elective deliveries pose risks to both mother and baby. Medical experts recommend that infants should not be born before 39 weeks, unless their health care provider considers it necessary. This is because the brain, lungs, and other organs are not completely developed until the last few weeks of gestation. As a result, early elective deliveries can lead to birth defects as well as birth injuries.

In light of their findings, Leapfrog has launched an initiative to reduce early elective delivery rates to less than 12 percent in all hospitals.