A miracle baby girl born at 21 weeks has become the most premature surviving baby ever reported. This year, she will turn three.
Mum Courtney Stensrud was heartbroken after giving birth to her baby girl in 2014 at just 21 weeks into her pregnancy. While babies so tiny and undeveloped may have chances of not surviving after being born, Ms Stensrud insisted that her baby be resuscitated.
Now, the baby girl, whose name and present photos were concealed by her mother, is turning three and has become a part of medical history as the most premature surviving baby ever reported.
Dr. Kaashif Ahmad, a MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist at the Pediatrix Medical Group of San Antonio, Texas, said that the baby girl’s case means that not all babies delivered at 21 weeks’ gestation do not surive, “though it remains highly probable,” he wrote in the journal Pediatrics this month.
In July 2014, Ms Stensrud went into early labour after experiencing premature rupture of membranes and chorioamnionitis, an infection of the placenta and the amniotic fluid. Her baby was due in November, which means she’s only 21 weeks into her pregnancy.
While she learned that babies born that early could die, Ms Stensrud insisted that her baby can make it. “When I was holding a live baby in my arms, I just absolutely thought she could survive. I felt it in my heart,” she said.
She met Dr Ahmad in the delivery room of the San Antonio hospital just minutes after she gave birth, with her tiny 14.5 ounce baby lying on her stomach with her umbilical cord still attached.
However, Dr Ahmad immediately told Ms Stensrud that babies delivered before 22 weeks’ gestation are too premature to survive, as their lungs are so underdeveloped that it could be impossible to deliver oxygen into their bodies.
He added that the possible consequences would be cerebral palsy, difficulty walking or running, the loss of part or all of their vision and learning disabilities and may face severe health problems for the rest of their lives.
Yet, despite this, Ms Stensrud remain unconvinced that her baby would face the same fate. She insisted that the doctors try to resuscitate her baby.
“As he was basically telling me there was nothing they could do, I said, ‘Will you try?’” she said, to which Dr Ahmad replied: “My answer was, ‘If you would like us to try then I’m absolutely happy to try’… knowing that there were no guarantees.”
Doctors then clamped the baby’s umbilical cord and placed her under an overhead warmer to raise her body temperature and placed a breathing tube into her airway. Miraculously, the baby responded.
“From that point, she gradually responded. She turned pink. Within a few minutes, she began to make efforts to breathe and then she began to move,” he recalled.
“They work miracles,” Ms Stensrud said
The baby was then sent to the neonatal intensive care unit and spent the next four months in hospital. She finally came home three days before her original due date in November 2014.
Today, Ms Stensrud said that her baby is “happy, full of energy and full of life”.
Dr Ahmad also said that during an evaluation last year, the child’s motor and language skills were even well compared to other children her age and she does not have cerebral palsy.
However, Dr Ahmad cautioned about resorting to resuscitating babies born in the 21st week of gestation. “Don’t assume one positive outcome will be the outcome for other infants,” he said.
Yet, Ms Stensrud said that miracles are possible. “The reason I’m doing these interviews — it’s not for me, it’s not for my daughter. It’s for that mother in antepartum who is frantically searching online — that she will have a little bit of hope and faith that she can have the same outcome,” she said.