Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The prematurity epidemic

Every week, I look forward to Tuesday's because it means I'm a week further along and a week closer to meeting our newest princess.  I read a few different articles on what's going on this week in development and lately I've found myself so incredibly infuriated with some of the "developments."  I really should stop reading them, basically the next 11 weeks is about fine tuning development, gaining weight, working on lung development and brain growth and growing.

I understand that pregnancy, no matter how amazing one finds it, no matter how much you want and prayed for your baby, or how much you love being pregnant, is hard.  Pregnancy often means weight gain, swelling, heart burn, feeling tired, sleepless nights, indigestion and your body being affected in ways you cannot understand being related to making a baby.  I completely and totally relate to wanting to be at the end of it, wanting to hold that baby in your arms and meeting them.  I get it.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant with Kaitlyn, I went to my appointment and my doctor said I was ready to have her and I probably wouldn't make it to my next appointment.  I did everything we found to be safe to naturally coax her out and into our arms.  I wanted to meet her.  I wanted to touch her and kiss her sweet head.  She was born at 40 weeks and 3 days.  So yeah, maybe she wasn't quite so ready.

With Matthew, I wanted him to stay in.  At the time, that was the safest place for him.  I was scared for him to be born because it meant so many unknowns.  It was so soon.  And we knew then what every extra day in there meant for him.

With Samantha, I wanted to get as close to 40 weeks as I safely could.  I wanted her to be full term, chubby, in our arms and going home with us, no doubt about it.

I feel the same way this time.

In the last two weeks, my weekly updates ended with:

"If born today, your baby has a 90% chance of surviving without major deformities.  Your baby will likely have a little trouble breathing and tire easily."

The first sentence doesn't bother me.  Although, if you are part of that 10% the 90% seems like such a tiny number.

What bothers me, is the simplistic way a 11-12 week premature baby is looked at.  It is taken so lightly as though your baby will just need some oxygen and get to go straight home with you.  I think this is part of why people just do not get the seriousness of prematurity.

A 28 week baby is going to have more than a little trouble breathing and tire easily.  A 28-29 week baby is going to need assistance breathing, is going to need to learn how to regulate their body temperature, is going to need to be fed through a tube until they can learn to use a bottle, is likely going to need multiple medications to help their lungs finish maturing and to help their heart finish developing properly.  They will still be at risk for infections in their intestines, risk of bleeding on their brains and a risk of not surviving.  A 28-29 week baby is going to be in the NICU for 2-3 months.  If you think pregnancy is hard, try living with your little one outside of your body and outside of your home for that long while a team of doctors and nurses are the ones responsible for their care, diaper changes, feedings and know your baby better than you.

It just makes me so sad that no matter how much information is available to the public, websites that first, second and even fifth time mothers look to for information about their pregnancy do not offer such a candid look at prematurity.

I do believe this is why so many women believe that it is totally safe and ideal to delivery your baby at 36-37 weeks.  That's full-term, right?  But it isn't.  A baby needs the full 40 weeks to continue developing. 

Recent research shows that even when babies are born at 37-38 weeks, they can suffer from lower IQ scores, and have trouble in math and reading

There are obviously plenty of reasons why babies are sometimes born prior to that and I completely understand and support that.  There are a lot of reasons why a woman and her doctor may decide that delivering prior to 39-40 weeks is necessary or ideal.  Everything from not being able to prevent delivery, the health of baby and mom, the well being of baby and mom, a history of full term still births and I am sure plenty more.  But, a discomfort or "sick of being pregnant" should not be reasons for early delivery.

At the end of the day, Healthy babies are worth the wait.  And, once that little one is in your arms, you'll realize how quickly your pregnancy actually went by.

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