Aetna Joins Efforts to Help Increase Safety of Scheduled Deliveries to Give Babies Healthier Starts

-- Working with the March of Dimes, The Leapfrog Group and others to lower the rate of electively scheduled deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy and lower babies’ risk of health and development problems --

-- Efforts recognize hospitals with safety programs in place and help others adopt them –

-- Outreach to expecting parents raises awareness --

HARTFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Aetna (NYSE: AET) today announced a number of infant safety programs launched in collaboration with the March of Dimes, The Leapfrog Group and others. The programs encourage women, doctors and hospitals to limit electively scheduled deliveries until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy.

Aetna is:

  • reaching out to our pregnant members to let them know how important it is to give their babies the benefit of full gestation
  • helping and encouraging hospitals to prevent earlier deliveries when they are not medically necessary for the mother or baby
  • letting members know which hospitals have programs in place to avoid early electively scheduled deliveries

“For every week prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy that a baby is delivered, the chance of having health and development problems that require care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nearly doubles,” says Marjorie Schulman, M.D., a senior medical director at Aetna with 25 years experience as a NICU doctor. “We want to help our members and doctors avoid that unnecessary risk. It’s really a protective effort.”

In a scheduled delivery, labor does not begin on its own. Instead, the doctor and the patient schedule a date to induce labor or perform a caesarian section. The March of Dimes and professional societies, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), agree that deliveries should not be scheduled before 39 weeks unless there is a medical reason. Despite this, the trend of electively scheduled deliveries is rising. New data released by The Leapfrog Group show that at some hospitals a third or more of all deliveries are scheduled before the mother has reached 39 weeks of pregnancy.

Supporting the March of Dimes' reach

The March of Dimes, working together with doctors, hospitals and Aetna, has created a toolkit for hospitals to use to reduce scheduled deliveries before 39 weeks without medical reason. Aetna also has funded a March of Dimes program that is helping targeted hospitals nationwide adopt prevention policies.

Recognizing hospitals

Additionally, Aetna is surveying and publicly recognizing facilities that have established safety guidelines for electively scheduled deliveries prior to 39 weeks as well as quality improvement programs. Members can see the designation Elective Delivery Infant Safety Program in our DocFind® online provider directory. This designation was added in November 2010 for select hospitals surveyed last year. Others will be added throughout the year.

“When you put our designations together with the information on elective rates released by The Leapfrog Group, this can be very powerful for members. They have information not only on the rate of scheduled delivery but also the hospitals that have prevention programs in place,” says Joanne Armstrong, M.D., senior medical director and head of Women's Health at Aetna.

Aetna is also doing its own outreach to targeted hospitals, encouraging them to use the March of Dimes toolkit to establish programs. Aetna will survey hospitals annually and update the directory designations accordingly as more hospitals take steps to reduce early elective deliveries.

Increasing awareness among members

“When women understand that choosing to deliver even a week early can increase their babies’ risk of health problems, they are likely to choose to wait,” Dr. Armstrong says. “We’ve added information about this issue to the Women’s Health section of and to, and our nurses who talk to women with higher-risk pregnancies discuss it too. Now we are beginning to mail letters to members who become pregnant, giving them information about the benefits of waiting the full 39 weeks.”

The letters also will tell women they can learn which nearby hospitals have infant safety programs in place to reduce early scheduled deliveries, by checking Aetna’s online provider directory.

“With these programs, Aetna is increasing awareness of safety issues and encouraging higher quality of care for babies,” Armstrong says.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 35.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see To learn more about Aetna's innovative online tools, visit


Tammy Arnold, 713-721-7891
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KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  Connecticut

INDUSTRY KEYWORDS:   Women  Health  Hospitals  Other Health  Baby/Maternity  Consumer  Nursing  Managed Care