Medically Unnecessary Early Deliveries Declining

March of Dimes Partnering with Hospitals on Quality Improvement Programs

White Plains, New York | Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Media Contacts

save print

Efforts to give more babies a healthy start in life by avoiding medically unnecessary early deliveries are beginning to show results, the March of Dimes said today.

The March of Dimes comments came as new hospital-based statistics released today by The Leapfrog Group show that medically unnecessary c-sections and inductions performed before 39 weeks are on the decline. About 39 percent of about 750 hospitals that voluntarily report to Leapfrog report an early elective delivery rate of 5 percent or less, up from about 30 percent last year.

For more than two years, the March of Dimes has been working with hospitals, health policy experts, and partner organizations to implement a toolkit that helps hospitals put in place policies and practices to reduce the number of medically unnecessary c-sections and inductions scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy. The toolkit is part of the March of Dimes multi-pronged approach to achieving the goals of its national Prematurity Campaign. The March of Dimes has set a goal of lowering the national preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. To learn more about the importance of a full-term pregnancy visit

Research in 2008 by the March of Dimes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that c-section deliveries accounted for nearly all of the increase in the U.S. singleton preterm birth rate between 1996 and 2004.

Preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and one million babies worldwide die each year as a result of their early birth. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and others.

The March of Dimes says that if a pregnancy is healthy and there are no complications that require an early delivery, women should wait until labor begins on its own, or until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. Many of the baby’s important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit or for more information. Visit for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.