New Jersey has been making great strides in efforts to reduce the number of early, elective births by C-section — done as a convenience for the mother or her doctor.

The New Jersey Health Department says early, elective deliveries have been cut in half since the year 2011.

State Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said the goal is to improve the overall general health of newborns, and "we know that there are a lot of risks, particularly for children that are born prior to week 39."

Those include brain liver and lung problems. "Or we also see that children that are born earlier than week 39 have hearing or vision problems, or jaundice, or trouble breathing, or other types of problems," she said. "Or they are more likely to end up in (a) neonatal intensive care unit."

She says for a baby, every week of gestation to full term matters.


New Jersey had seen an uptick in C-sections that occurred from early 2000 through about 2010 — about 40 percent, Bennett said.

Bennett credits the collaborative efforts of the Department with The New Jersey Hospital Association and other groups in reducing the early elective birth numbers, "so we are really proud of the work that our partners have done."

That includes work on the March of Dimes "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait" campaign.

Bennett also said that since 2012, the department has also been working on reducing preterm births by educating pregnant women on their risks, and on the strategies that they can take.

"With everyone working together, the doctors, the midwives, the nurses, the community health workers, the hospitals, our maternal and child health consortia, the hospitals, the Department of Health — all of us collaborating, have created a real change," she said.

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Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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