A long road of adopting new policies and certifications helped put Altru Health System on Newsweek’s 2020 list of Best Maternity Hospitals.

That road began in 2016 when Altru’s Family Birthing Center adopted perinatal core measures developed by hospital certification group, the Joint Commission -- a global entity that focuses on improving the quality of medical services and patient care. Two years later, Altru received that certification from the group and is the only hospital in the state to have been named so.

"This designation shows that the collaboration needed to deliver the highest quality of maternity care is happening at Altru," said Josh Deere, medical director of primary care. " We have a diverse team involved with the care of mother’s, babies and their families, all who are committed to delivering world-class care. This is a direct reflection of that commitment, and brings a sense of pride to all involved.”

Altru joins 231 hospitals across 36 states to have met the criteria for maternity care to be included in Newsweek’s list. It is the only hospital in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota to have been recognized. To compile the list, the magazine partners with The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit so named because of its goal of providing giant leaps forward in health care in the country.

When evaluating hospitals, the Leapfrog Group considers a variety of procedures, including early elective deliveries, the number of cesarean sections performed and screening procedures for mothers and their babies. Altru exceeded all of the group's recommendations.

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How Altru compares:

-- Leapfrog recommends a rate of less than 5% for early elective delivery-- C-sections or medical inductions prior to 39 weeks without medical necessity. Altru, according to Bonzer, does not offer elective deliveries before 39 weeks. Its rate is zero.

-- The nonprofit recommends a first-time rate for C-sections to be 23.9% or fewer. Altru’s rate was less than 13%.

“Most women try to avoid cesarean birth, if possible,” wrote Bonzer. “Our rate is 12.9% and is usually due to labor complications for mother or baby.”

-- The recommended rate for episiotomy, an incision made to aid a difficult delivery, is 5% or less. Altru’s rate is 3.2%.

-- creening for high levels of bilirubin is recommended to be 90% or greater. A high level of bilirubin could lead to brain damage, disabilities and other conditions, including jaundice. Altru screens all infants prior to discharge.

-- Leapfrog recommends a rate of 90% or greater for prophylactic measures for women who undergo C-sections, in order to reduce the occurrence of an arterial blood clot in the lungs. 100% of women at Altru wear compression boots during and after the surgery to reduce this risk.

1,586 babies were born at Altru in 2019. That number for 2020, so far, is 727. The hospital is seeing a slight decline in births this year, which follows the national trend.