BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Early term infants (37–<39 weeks’ gestation) are at higher risk of adverse outcomes than term infants (39–<41 weeks’ gestation). We hypothesized that a policy to eliminate elective, early term deliveries would result in fewer NICU admissions and shorter lengths of stay among infants born ≥37 weeks.

METHODS:

This was a retrospective cohort study of singleton infants born ≥37 weeks at a tertiary medical center from 2004 to 2015 (preperiod: 2004–2008; postperiod: 2010–2015; washout period: 2009). We compared the incidence of early term delivery, NICU admissions (short: ≥4–<24 hours, long: ≥24 hours), NICU diagnoses, and stillbirths in both periods. We used modified Poisson regression to calculate adjusted risk ratios.

RESULTS:

There were 20 708 and 24 897 singleton infants born ≥37 weeks in the pre- and postperiod, respectively. The proportion of early term infants decreased from 32.5% to 25.7% (P < .0001). NICU admissions decreased nonsignificantly (9.2% to 8.8%; P = .22), with a significant reduction in short NICU stays (5.4% to 4.6%; adjusted risk ratio: 0.85 [95% confidence interval: 0.79–0.93]). Long NICU stays increased slightly (3.8% to 4.2%), a result that was nullified by adjusting for neonatal hypoglycemia. A nonsignificant increase in the incidence of stillbirths ≥37 to <40 weeks was present in the postperiod (7.5 to 10 per 10 000 births; P = .46).

CONCLUSIONS:

Reducing early term deliveries was associated with fewer short NICU stays, suggesting that efforts to discourage early term deliveries in uncomplicated pregnancies may minimize mother-infant separation in the newborn period.

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