By Angela Maas, Contributing Editor, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A combination of quality-of-care and cost issues has prompted some health plans to take steps to reduce the number of scheduled, medically unnecessary premature Caesarean section deliveries, mainly through a focus on education of both women and physicians.
Various studies show that a growing percentage of women is having C-sections, many of which take place before the 39th week of gestation. According to the CDC, between 1990 and 2005 there was a 20% increase in babies born before the 37th week of gestation and a 29% increase in births occurring at 37 to 39 weeks of gestation. Many studies show heightened risks to both babies and mothers when the babies are delivered before 39 weeks.
Although there are certainly medically necessary reasons for some of these C-sections, newborns delivered prematurely are at risk for more medical complications than those born at full term. Many of these infants are admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, which can be much more costly for health plans than a C-section or vaginal birth without NICU admission.