For the last four years, Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah based healthcare system, has been reviewing the expenses associated with inducing labor prior to a baby’s due date. MSNBC (via Reuters) reports that researchers have been doing specific comparisons between the costs of inducing at 39, 38 and 37 weeks gestation. The results indicate that overall expenses are dramatically reduced, as are the risks to the baby and the mother, by waiting until the 39 week mark to perform the inductions.
The results have prompted Intermountain to limit inductions for healthy women to no sooner than 39 weeks in all of its 18 hospitals with maternity wards. The restriction has resulted in a savings of at least $1 million to patients and insurance companies for expenses associated with infants born with breathing difficulties. They have also significantly reduced the rate of caesarean sections at at estimated savings of $46 million per year.
In addition to the costs savings, the move has also reduced the risks for both mothers and babies that are associated with early inductions. With the reduced C-section rate mothers are not subject to the risks involved with the surgery, and babies are shown to have significantly fewer respiratory problems at birth. The results showed that babies induced at 38 weeks were twice as likely to have breathing problems, and those born from induction at 37 weeks were five times more likely to have problems when compared to those delivered at 39 weeks.