published Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

And another thing ... Campaign kickoff, and changing birthing trends

Mayfield's Primary Flavor

Let the campaign begin. Four and a half months before voters will decide between incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and two-time primary opponent Weston Wamp as the Republican candidate in November's congressional election, the first call-and-response between the two has set things in motion.

No sooner did Rep. Fleischmann announce Monday that 2012 primary opponent Scottie Mayfield would be supporting his campaign this time around than Wamp, a Chattanooga businessman, suggested the endorsement was due to an incident from the 2012 primary.

Wamp said Mayfield told him in person last weekend the incident in which Wamp's sister, Coty, was alleged to have videotaped Mayfield struggling to answer questions before College Republicans at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville influenced his endorsement.

Fleischmann, who named the Mayfield Dairy Farms president emeritus honorary chairman of his campaign, said the title meant "whatever Scottie Mayfield wants it to be."

Mayfield said he made the announcement to clear up any confusion that he might be supporting someone other than Fleischmann. Wamp is the only other announced candidate in the race.

Wamp also revealed Monday he has raised $300,000 in the past nine weeks and expected more from a Monday night fundraiser. His current federal campaign finance report wasn't available, but Fleischmann's showed he raised $592,606 during the 2013 calendar year.

Although Wamp finished third behind Fleischmann and Mayfield in the 2012 GOP primary, the race indicated 60 percent of voters wanted somebody other than the incumbent. The campaign will indicate whether Fleischmann has shored up support in the past two years and, if not, whether voters believe Wamp's youth and real-world experience are enough to unseat the Ooltewah Republican.

Idea: Let the baby decide

Was a medical degree needed for all concerned -- mothers, doctors, hospital administrators or medical organizations -- to know that elective early baby deliveries were not ideal for either mother or child?

With hospitals across Tennessee and the country marking major drops in elective early deliveries, according to a report by Times Free Press reporter Kate Harrison, the practice of planned pre-term delivery now seems so 1990s and 2000s. But the March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetricians have decried the problems with such deliveries between 37 and 39 weeks, except where medically justified, for years.

Significant brain development in a child occurs in the womb between 37 and 40 weeks, experts say. So babies born even a week or two early are at greater risk for respiratory problems, feeding issues and other complications.

Dr. Catherine Y. Spong, a maternal-fetal specialist at the National Institutes of Health whose studies have informed recent definitions of term pregnancy, said in a 2013 New York Times report that relative to delivery at 39 weeks, various risks of harm to the baby increased as much as fourfold for delivery at 37 weeks and doubled for delivery at 38 weeks.

So, how did the early-term train pick up steam? Was it mothers who were tired of carrying around the extra weight? A lack of prenatal care for an increasing number of teen mothers? Doctors who wanted to get away early on a vacation or didn't want to work on weekends? A boom in reliably early-term multiple births? Hospitals which wanted to give their patients more choices? Advanced neonatal care that kept mothers from worrying about an early birth?

Chances are, it was for all of those reasons and more.

"It's really embarrassing to say that we don't even know why women go into labor at full term, much less why some go into labor early," Craig Rubens, executive director of the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, said in a USA Today report.

Nationally, the rate rose more than 20 percent between 1990 and 2006. The present turnaround, an 18.8 percent drop at Erlanger hospital's Baroness Campus, a 20.9 percent drop at Erlanger East and a 37.8 percent drop at Parkridge East, is dramatic.

In the final analysis, the baby, wherever possible, should be the deciding factor.

"Spontaneous labor set off by the baby is [the] sign the baby is ready to be born," Elliott Main, medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, told USA Today.

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