World Prematurity Day

Nov. 17 is World Prematurity Day. It's a day to sit back and reflect on the true miracle of a healthy baby.

Three days later, George, my own little late-term preemie, will turn four.

This week, in honor of him and his preemie cohorts, I will be sharing stories and information related to prematurity. Of course, Late Term Preemies (those born between 34-37 weeks, 6 days) are close to my heart.

Tatum at Ain't No Roller Coaster recently made some awesome graphics that give information about all sorts of things related to prematurity. Her oldest son is a late-term preemie and her youngest is a micro-preemie.

 
Although the phrase "Later Term Prematurity" encompasses kiddos born between 34-37 weeks, I can tell you there is a huge difference between those born at 35 weeks and those born at 37 weeks. My oldest son, Joseph, was born at 37w1d. He was small, five pounds 11 ounces, but breathed on his own. We did have to work at breastfeeding, waking him up every hour and half to eat, stimulating him to eat and working on his latch. However, how much of that was due to him being born at 37 weeks and me being a first-time breastfeeding mom, I don't know. I do know that we had no concerns over how much he was eating, no problems with his latch, he gained weight well and we had no worried about jaundice. He never had formula and nursed until he was 15 months old. To this day, he's about average in height and weight.

On the flip side, George was six pounds, eight ounces. (I took fish oil throughout my pregnancy and we think that's one reason he was labeled as Large for Gestational Age. Water immersion (I swam several times a week until he was born) and fish oil can increase  blood flow to the placenta, making for a well fed baby.) He was able to breathe at birth but he didn't breathe well. He was given to me as soon as he was born but I could tell something was wrong. With my older two children, I had a strong maternal desire to bring them to my breast, cuddle them and feed them. With George, I kept thinking, "Please take him away and make him better." I held him away from me and upright so he could breathe easier.

George had RDS. Even after he went home, I had to supplement with pumped breast milk, be careful to make sure he ate well and often and had to go in for frequent weight and bili checks. It wasn't until he was six weeks old, a week adjusted, that he began to gain and maintain his weight.

The thing with all preemies is that they are not always caught up at two. George's eating problems come and go even now, at nearly four. Late term preemies are born before their brain is fully developed:

 
and the results of this can be devastating and long lasting.
 
Most of the premature infants born in the US are Late Term Preemies. Because we can and do save much younger infants, LTP are considered the "easy" preemies with minimal side effects of their prematurity. Considering that their risk of death is much, much lower than that of their micro preemie counter parents, it is easy to see why medical professionals think nothing of routinely taking babies around 36 weeks. However, this needs to stop. It needs to change.
 
Would my son have CAS and oral feeding problems and SPD if he hadn't been born at 35 weeks, vent'd and pumped full of life saving antibiotics? I don't know. I do know that he would have likely died without all of those treatments. I know that, knowing what I know now, I would have asked to not be induced, but rather given the steroid shots for his lungs, possibly mag sulfate to slow my labor or just stay in bed and be monitored for an infection. I would have tried to keep him in another week or two, just to give his brain and lungs a little more time. It would have been hard but . . .