Wrapped in a soft pink blanket, 3-day-old Finley McKay Tepper contentedly slept through the flurry of activity.
Nearby, her 2-year-old brother Foster carefully ate tiny fragments of blue frosting swirled atop a cupcake. His sweatshirt read “World’s Best Brother.”
Daniel and Janelle Tepper, their son and newborn were part of a Thursday recognition to highlight the benefits of waiting for full-term baby deliveries. A 39-plus-weeks recognition banner is recognizing the efforts of 10 hospitals statewide to reduce early elective deliveries — and two are in the lakes area. Presentations were made Thursday to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and Lakewood Health System in Staples.
The two hospitals were recognized for working with moms to reduce the number of early deliveries — that are not medically necessary — to consistently less than 5 percent per year.
“Babies delivered before full term are at increased risk of serious health problems and death in their first year of life,” Essentia Health reported. “Babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.”
March of Dimes reports more births are being scheduled early. Lawrence Massa, March of Dimes board member and Minnesota Hospital Association president and CEO, said the last weeks of pregnancy are important for development of the brain, lungs and other vital organs.
The March of Dimes worked with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and hospitals to reduce medically unnecessary births before 39 weeks, resulting in policy changes in 2012.
Wendy Burt, vice president of communications with the Minnesota Hospital Association, reported since the change the number of early elective deliveries decreased by 87 percent.
Daniel Tepper, 38, said as a parent he didn’t realize how important waiting that additional time was. He was initially in favor of an early delivery considering his wife’s comfort and a potential tax deduction for 2013. Then their physician, Dr. Hal Leland, explained the benefits. Foster, their young son, came early and had a lot of ear problems, his dad said.
Their newborn daughter, Janelle Tepper joked, was cooked to perfection. She was born Monday at 7 pounds 10 ounces. Grandparents Don and Sharlon Tepper of Minneapolis have been helping with Foster and were on hand for the presentation.
Dr. Steven Senica said the obstetrics department has done an excellent job of holding off many requests for early delivery.
“It’s a very good cause and we are happy to be part of it,” Senica said, adding kudos should go out to the staff and delivery nurses.
Janelle Tepper, 37, praised the hospital staff for going above and beyond the call of duty. “I’ve been impressed with all the help,” she said.
Now looking at their family, healthy newborn daughter and young son, Daniel Tepper said: “We are blessed.”
Essentia Health reported establishing a trusting relationship and sharing knowledge of full-term birth benefits between the patient and obstetrics/gynecology team is key.
In Minnesota, the March of Dimes is collaborating with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Hospital Association to educate parents that healthy babies are worth the wait.
Babies born at 37 or 38 completed weeks are considered early term births. Full term refers to babies born at 39-41 weeks. Premature birth is before 37 weeks.
March of Dimes reports:
• A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two-thirds of what it will weight at 39 or 40 weeks.
• At 39 weeks, important organs such as brain, lungs and liver get all the time they need to develop.
• Babies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life than babies born full term. Babies that are full term are less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.
• Babies born too soon are often too small and babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm.
• Babies born too early sometime can’t suck and swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after they are born.
• Due dates may be off by as much as two weeks.
• Babies born even a few weeks early may have serious health problems and need help breathing, feeding and keeping warm.
• Inducing labor may double a chance of needing a cesarean section.
• Recent research found the overall threat is small but the risk of death more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks compared to those born at 40 weeks.