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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Memorial Hospital's Women's Center honored
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Shown with the banner marking Memorial Hospital’s work to prevent babies from being delivered too early at their mothers’ request are (from left) Sara Long, director of program services for the Virginia Chapter of March of Dimes; Tara Robertson, Pat Salmons and Pamela Hudson, all of the staff of The Women’s Center at Memorial Hospital; Mary Lyons, director of the Women’s Center; and Abraham Segres, vice president of quality and patient safety for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Women’s Center at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville was honored Tuesday for its efforts to improve infant health by preventing babies from being delivered too early at their mothers’ request.

Out of 53 hospitals in Virginia where babies are delivered, Memorial was one of 13 recognized for having no “early elective deliveries” since October 2012, according to Abraham Segres, vice president of quality and patient safety for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA).

That is based on data collected by the association pertaining to instances in which women gave birth before the 39th week of pregnancy.

It actually has been at least several years since Memorial performed such a delivery, having since taken into account best practices in pregnancy care, according to Leslie Smith, the hospital’s communications director.

A banner noting Memorial’s accomplishment was presented to the hospital by the VHHA and the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to improve infant and maternal health.

Research shows that babies born after 39 weeks tend to be healthier than ones born sooner. Their organs are better developed and they breathe, eat and thrive easier, said Dr. Saria Saccocio, Memorial’s chief medical officer.

Also, babies’ brains grow a great deal after week 35, said Sara Long, state director of program services for the March of Dimes.

By the 40th week, babies and their brains generally are fully developed, Smith said.

It cannot be guaranteed that babies born after 39 or 40 weeks will not have health problems, but they stand a much better chance of being healthy, added Women’s Center Director Mary Lyons.

If a baby is born too early, it might have to be transferred to an out-of-town hospital that provides specialized care that Memorial is not equipped to provide, Lyons said, while the mother remains hospitalized locally.

That keeps the babies from bonding with their mothers and other family members, which is critical immediately following their births, Smith noted.

The hospital still delivers babies earlier when pregnancy endangers the lives of mothers or fetuses, such as through severe bleeding, officials said.

However, doctors, nurses and other health care workers at Memorial have been educating patients and their families about why mothers should not choose to deliver before 39 weeks, Smith said.

Lyons said there are various reasons why some women want their babies to be delivered early. Examples she mentioned include wanting fathers at home on military leave to be present for the births and hearing about women who underwent deliveries before 39 weeks and had healthy babies.

While pregnant, “they don’t picture” the potential health problems their children could have by being born too early, she added.

Women usually do not resist the advice of their physicians to wait until at least 39 weeks, said Memorial Chief Nursing Officer Michele Pylon.

“It really is about the relationship of trust that a mom has with her (health care) provider,” Smith said.

About five years ago, Long said, the March of Dimes began noticing a sharp increase in the number of babies being born too early.

In October 2012, the VHHA asked the state’s birthing hospitals to begin discouraging early elective deliveries, and all have done so, Segres said.

Since then, such deliveries have dropped from about 5 percent to roughly 2 percent of births statewide, he said.

In terms of discouraging early elective deliveries, Lyons said she is pleased that Memorial was “recognized for doing the right thing.”

Memorial’s sister hospital, Danville Regional Medical Center, also was recognized Tuesday for having no early elective deliveries.


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