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University of Utah OB/GYN Research Chair Weighs in on Utah's "D" Grade

Excerpts from the Salt Lake Tribune article “Premature births: Utah earns a ‘D’ from March of Dimes study”:


One cause is women or doctors scheduling deliveries a couple of weeks before the due date without a medical reason. In response, there is a push by Utah doctors to refuse to electively induce labor or perform Cesarean sections unless a woman is one week or less away from her due date.


Michael Varner, who helps oversee obstetrics research at the University of Utah, has heard the pleas: “They’re 38 1/2 weeks [along] and they’re tired of being pregnant. Their doctor is going out of town. It’s a week before Christmas.”


But, he adds, “doctors should just say, ‘No.’ Hospitals should just say, ‘No.’ A spontaneous onset of labor and vaginal delivery is overall the safest.”


While some of the rise in Utah’s rates of babies born between 34 and 37 weeks can be attributed to delivering ill babies that might not have survived until term, Varner states that about HALF of all hospital births in Utah are scheduled.


Babies born even a couple of weeks early are at risk for respiratory and feeding problems, jaundice, long-term mental disabilities and sudden death, Varner said. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs two-thirds of what it will weigh at a full term of 40 weeks, according to the March of Dimes.



Utah’s premature birth rate has jumped 24 percent since 1995. Varner said the main reason is the number of babies delivered between 34 and 37 weeks, due to a rise in the number of twin and triplet births and improvements in care that allow doctors to deliver ill babies earlier.

Another reason is the “disturbing” trend of elective inductions or C-sections before 38 weeks, he said. It’s hard to know how often that happens. Counting induced vaginal deliveries and C-sections, about half of Utah’s 52,000 births are scheduled, though some of those are for medical reasons.




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Reader Comments (7)

Women are asking for inductions? Begging for them?

Listening to Mothers Survey says? Not often enough to credit Moms with elective/convenience inductions.

Survey says? Doctors are selling these interventions as safe and even "necessary", along with supine labor w/epidural and cesarean.

Statistics say? These interventions are not safe and are only a risky trade off for seriously compromising maternal and baby health problems.

Well, except for supine labor w/epidural. There's NO EXCUSE for this labor stalling, fetal distress causing, pelvic floor ruining, perfect for uterine rupture situation!

January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

I live in Utah. And this is true. Almost EVERY single woman I know that is 35 or younger that has had kids has been induced, tied to bed, with Pitocin and epidural. (I'm one of those "weird" "crazy" people that let my baby decide when he wanted to come AND I did it drug-free.) In fact, growing up I thought it was perfectly normal to induce labor if you went a SECOND past your due date. I'm SO glad I did my research and decided to not let cultural persuasion (instead of you know fact and research and all that) risk my or my son's health.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTracie

That feeling of needing to "do something" about a pregnancy once we get to 39 weeks and 6 days is so culturally ingrained, isn't it? My friend's doctor told her last year, "Once you hit 37 weeks, we'll talk induction." She could have induced at any point after 37 weeks.

November 11, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

I've often wondered this very question. If these are the same doctors that are saying, "you can't eat and drink during labor, you may not deliver in any position but on your back, you may not do....fill in the blank," why don't they just say, 'You may not have an induced birth or a cesarean before there is a medical indication because it's carries too much risk."????? Anybody? Anybody???

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAugusta

I've been living in Utah for the last four years, and I can tell you this is true. It seems like most of the women I know are induced, and they don't seem to care as long as they get the baby out. I met one woman who was supposed to be induced and she (being the control freak she was) hoped that the baby wouldn't come out before she was induced!!!

Now, my cousin had to be induced last summer for medical reasons (her liver wasn't producing enough bile and her daughter's was trying to do liver work for two). They're both fine now.

Me, I'll let my future babies come out when they feel ready. Of course, if an induction or c-section is medically necessary, then I will go through with it.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I am a L&D nurse and I find the culture of birth here in Ut to be interesting. Most of the women I care for have been induced. We also have about a 98% epidural rate. I see the desire for different births coming from a younger generation, though. Another interesting thing, though...Utah also has one of the highest home birth rates. Kind of makes me wonder what is going on here.

November 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I had my baby at the University of Utah and I feel like I had to fight off the socially and medically ingrained habits of "intervention." I am in the medical field and I can't imagine what a pregnant woman might feel like if she didn't have the tools and knowledge to know the TRUTH about the effects and risks of obstetric interventions; whether it be unnecessary inductions, intravenous narcotics, an epidural or an elective cesarean section! To the future laboring women out there- get educated and don't be afraid to say NO THANKS NOT RIGHT NOW to your doctor. It is your body and your baby.

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercristi
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