A lucky pair of scissors

One of the luckier babies of 2012 was little Maddalena Douse of Lewes, East Sussex, England, who was born last summer at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton.Baby scissors

Maddalena was born at 23 weeks, and weighed only 382 grams, or about 13 1/2 ounces. According to a story in The Sun, a baby weighing less than a pound would not have been considered viable, and the hospital would not have been likely to use extraordinary measures to keep her alive.

However, at her first weigh-in, Maddalena wound up on the scale with a pair of scissors that went unnoticed. Their weight brought her up to that lucky pound. Only when she was already on a ventilator to help her breathe did the hospital staff discover the difference the scissors had made in her weight.

The little girl went home just before Christmas and "is expected to grow into a healthy child," according to the article.

“We never thought we’d ever bring Maddalena home,” said Kate Douse, Maddalena's mother, according to The Sun. “She now weighs 5½ [pounds] and is getting stronger by the day. She’s our little miracle and we’re so glad to have her home in time for Christmas.”

Maddalena had a twin, Isabella, who did not survive.

Leapfrog: Early elective births are common

The Leapfrog Group, a 10-year-old hospital monitoring group, has found that doctors and hospitals are commonly scheduling women for elective deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation, even though studies have established a bright arrow that shows that babies are at risk of death or serious health problems if they are born before then.

A survey of 773 hospitals released this week shows that these institutions performed more than 57,000 inductions and Cesarean sections before 39 weeks just in the last year. The hospitals displayed a wide range of rates for early elective deliveries, from less than 5% to more than 40%.

"Leapfrog’s release of 2010 data is the first real evidence that the practice of scheduling newborn deliveries before 39 weeks without a medical reason is common and varied among hospitals even in the same state or community," the report stated.

The brain and lungs aren't fully developed until the very last weeks of pregnancy, said Alan R. Fleischman MD, senior vice president and medical director of the March of Dimes, a group that works to prevent birth defects, and is working with Leapfrog to cut the numbers of early births.

“Women need to protect themselves by refusing to schedule their deliveries before 39 weeks without a sound medical reason, and by knowing the facts about the hospitals they plan to deliver in,” said Leapfrog CEO Leah Binder.

Some hospitals, notably Hospital Corporation of America, have programs in place to encourage doctors to refrain from scheduling Cesarean sections and elective inductions for nonmedical reason, Leapfrog officials said.

National Birth Defects Prevention Month

The focus this year during January, National Birth Defects Prevention Month, is on the judicious use of medicines before, during and after pregnancy.

That goes for prescription and over-the counter drugs, as well as herbal remedies and dietary supplements.

Perhaps two-thirds of women use some kind of medication during pregnancy, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. Yet many of the effects of these drugs are poorly understood.

Pregnant women are often excluded from drug trials because of concerns for their unborn babies. As a result, we often know little about how drugs will affect fetuses.

Birth defects affect about 3 percent of babies born in the United States and cause more than 20 percent of infant deaths, according to the CDC.

Your Birth Plan, courtesy of The Bloggess

I always enjoy The Bloggess, a/k/a Jenny Lawson, and I surely do wish I could do those things she does with pictures.

With her permission, I offer a Christmas cookie from one of Lawson's recent posts, "Lesson 7: Your Birth Plan. Good Luck With That." As is so often true of The Bloggess, collateral damage aside, she has hit the nail on the head. Plus, it's seasonal:

The person making your actual birth plan decisions is your baby. Related: babies don’t give a shit about your plans. Making a plan for the birth of a child is like making a plan for decorating your Christmas tree in the middle of a house fire. Until you’re actually in the heat of battle, you have no idea whether you’re going to want drugs or whether you’ll have to have a c-section or whether you’ll be stuck in traffic and the baby will be delivered by a cab driver who will burn off the umbilical cord with his cigar. And that’s fine. Hell, the Virgin Mary had her baby in a damn barn and he turned out okay.

In the end, none of that matters. Whether you welcome your baby in a hut or in a hospital or in the orphanage where you adopt her, the same basic rule applies: If you’re lucky enough to end up with a baby, you win.

The end.