The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH), the Louisiana March of Dimes and a group of Louisiana hospitals announced a new, voluntary 40-Week Initiative today. The Go the Full 40 Initiative is a voluntary pledge by hospitals to end non-medically indicated induced pregnancies, which helps reduce c-section rates and ensures newborns reach 40 weeks gestation.

"This is such an important and necessary action for Louisiana families. Waiting until 40 weeks of pregnancy reduces medical complications for both the mother and child. There are very serious risks associated with scheduling a non-medically indicated delivery before 39 weeks," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "I am very proud of Louisiana March of Dimes and health care partners on taking another step in making the wellbeing of newborns a priority."

Early elective deliveries are non-medically necessary deliveries of babies before 39 weeks of gestation. These deliveries may put the health of the newborn at risk and increase the likelihood of serious medical complications. Early elective deliveries are also more expensive than standard deliveries.

"The Go the Full 40 effort is about reducing harm to one of Louisiana's most important resources-our newborns," said LDH Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Rebekah Gee. "We appreciate the Louisiana hospitals that are volunteering. The initiative will help babies enter the world as healthy as possible."

The 39-Week Initiative helped reduce early elective deliveries without any medical indications and the 40-Week Initiative will continue its path plus pledge to reduce Louisiana's c-section rate.

The following hospitals have volunteered to Go the Full 40:

• Lafayette General Medical Center
• Lake Charles Memorial Hospital
• Lane Regional Medical Center
• Natchitoches Regional Medical Center
• North Oaks Medical Center
• Ochsner Health System
• St. Francis Medical Center
• Terrebonne General Medical Center
• Tulane Medical Center
• Woman's Hospital

"This is such a vital partnership that can prove to be incredibly beneficial in improving maternal and child health by reducing cesarean section rates for first-time, low risk mothers across the state. The 39-Week Initiative was a successful collaboration and we look forward to seeing similar, if not greater results with our Go the Full 40 partners," said March of Dimes State Director Frankie Robertson. "Working together, we aim to reduce our state's cesarean section rate of nearly 40%, a rate that has been consistently the highest or second highest in the nation."

The increasing number of infants born prior to 39 weeks has become a growing national concern. The 40-Week Initiative works to promote the long-term, systematic changes necessary to improve birth outcomes, improve premature birth outcomes and reduce c-section rates.

For more information, contact the March of Dimes Louisiana Chapter at 225-295-0655.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.