Wesley Medical Center one of six hospitals in Mississippi honored by March of Dimes

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg, MS – The March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, has recognized Wesley Medical Center as one of only six hospitals in Mississippi, and the only hospital in the Pine Belt, to meet the goal of avoiding elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy in more than 95% of annual births. Doing so gives babies a healthy start in life, the March of Dimes says.

"It is a long-standing practice at Wesley Medical Center to avoid scheduling elective inductions or caesarean deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy, except when medically necessary," said Dr. Joseph Washburne, OB/GYN at Women's Pavilion of South Mississippi. "The last weeks of pregnancy are very important to a baby's development and we are committed to giving them the best chance to start life with good health."

Wesley Medical Center is a partner in the March of Dimes pledge to help new mothers understand the importance of carrying their babies to full term. The hospital is demonstrating their partnership with the March of Dimes by participating in the 39 Weeks Banner program. The program recognizes hospitals committed to keeping the number of elective deliveries before 39 weeks under 5% annually.

The 39 Weeks Banner program highlights Strong Start, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Through the Strong Start campaign, the March of Dimes is sending the message that "Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait" and urging women to wait for labor to begin on its own if their pregnancy is healthy, rather than scheduling delivery before 39 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon each year and more than one million of those infants die as a result. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. Recent research by the March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that although the overall threat is small, the risk of death more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.

"The last weeks of pregnancy are important.  Babies aren't just putting on weight.  They are undergoing important development of the brain, lungs and other vital organs," said Scott Berns, MD, MPH, senior vice president and deputy medical director for the March of Dimes. "I commend Wesley Medical Center for being a champion for babies."

The Birth Center at Wesley features labor, delivery, postpartum and recovery (LDRP) suites designed to allow a birthing mother to stay in one room for all of her care. In addition to the LDPR suites, which allow parents the option of having their newborns to stay with them in the privacy of their birthing suite for the entire hospital stay, Wesley's Newborn Nursery provides the option for parents prefer to temporarily turn the care of their little one over to Wesley's trained staff.

Wesley Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is adjacent to the Newborn Nursery for babies who need additional care or monitoring. For more information about The Birth Center, call 601-268-8000 or visit Wesley.com. For more information about the 39 Weeks Banner program, visit MarchOfDimes.com/39weeks.