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U.S. Hospitals Deliver Babies Too Early, Leading to Increased Risk for Birth Injuries

Researchers at The Leapfrog Group reported that more than 40% of babies born at some hospitals are delivered early for no medical reason. The Leapfrog Group is a hospital-quality watchdog group. Last year, The Leapfrog Group surveyed 773 hospitals and found that thousands of babies were electively scheduled for a delivery before the children were fully developed. Their method of survey was verified and endorsed by the National Quality Forum. Of the 773 hospitals, some hospitals reported 10 times the number of medically unnecessary deliveries when compared to the others. Early delivery puts children at risk for birth-related brain injuries.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) warned that a baby needs at least a completed 39 weeks to develop the brain and other organs. The 39 week benchmark is due to the fact that the brain and other vital organs, such as the lungs, are not completely developed until the last few weeks. Although there are legitimate medical reasons to schedule an early birth, such as broken membranes before labor begins, according to the medical director for the March of Dimes, “a baby’s birth should not be scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy, unless their health care provider says it’s medically necessary.”

Early elective delivery doesn’t only put children at risk, it is financially burdensome the new parents. When children are born too early, they must be carefully monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit. According to the March of Dimes, in 2007 the average cost to the parents for a premature birth was $64,713. This is more than four times the average cost of a full-term infant at $15,047. The Leapfrog Group cited a study that estimated about one billion dollars can be saved annually if the rate of early elective deliveries were reduced to only 1.7%.

Chicago birth injury lawyers, Levin and Perconti, ask Illinois hospitals to only recommend early delivery when there is a medically necessary reason. We also encourage parents to be aware of the risks of early elective delivery. Our attorneys are experienced at helping parents seek fair and reasonable compensation to ease the financial burden of birth injuries.

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