Monday, December 28, 2009

Almost Jan 1... Time to Induce?

Another economics-type look at births... A NY Times article from 2006 called To-Do List: Wrap Gifts. Have Baby talks about how the number of births in late December has shot up since families frequently schedule births during this time so that they can receive the year's tax incentives for having a child before the year ends.

But my favorite part of the article asks: "In addition to being an entertaining bit of trivia, the end-of-the-year baby boom also raises a legitimate policy question: just because we have the medical ability to do something, does that necessarily mean it’s such a good idea?"

Induced births and Caesarean sections are considerably more expensive than natural births on average. There are clearly cases when labor needs to be induced for a baby’s health or the mother’s. It’s much less clear, however, that the health care system should be subsidizing parents’ desire for a smaller tax bill.
The health effects of scheduled births are also murky. A big study led by a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that voluntary Caesareans increase the risk of infant mortality. Another study found that weekday births are slightly more risky than weekend ones, all else equal, suggesting that a drug-induced birth can also cause health problems. The differences are small, but the stakes are big enough to take any change seriously.
“When you induce labor, you compress this long process into a few hours,” said Dr. Emmet Hirsch, the director for obstetrics at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare near Chicago. “When you do that, you can run into all sorts of problems.”
To minimize those problems, the largest medical provider in Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, now discourages women from electively inducing labor before their 39th week of pregnancy. “This is what’s best for moms and babies,” said Janie Wilson, a nurse who helps run the newborn program at Intermountain. “It just seems like a no-brainer.”

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