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Born premature: it's more common than you think

Sophy Davis thought her pregnancy was normal and that everything was going well until she spontaneously went into early labour last year.
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​This was her first pregnancy and she had no history that put her at risk of delivering a preterm baby. Sophy said everything happened very quickly and she was terrified.

Sophy’s baby, Hugo, was born at 26 weeks and four days gestation on September 23, 2018. He weighed 1,044 grams (a little over 2 lbs) and was delivered via emergency C-section at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. A healthy pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks, and a baby born before 37 weeks is premature. Worldwide it is estimated that 15 million babies are born premature each year and in British Columbia one in 10 of an estimated 45,000 delivered babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation.

BC Women’s is fortunate to house a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to provide care to the province’s most fragile newborns. The NICU uses advanced technology and empowers parents to actively care for their tiny newborns. Families are encouraged to practice safe skin-to-skin, where the baby is held against the parent’s bare skin. This practice called kangaroo care was developed in the late 1970s in Colombia and is taught and practiced worldwide. 

 

Skin-to-skin has many benefits and is backed up by science. It promotes bonding and breastfeeding, a baby’s body temperature regulation, and has a calming effect for both baby and parent. 

“I was not mentally prepared to have a preemie,” says Sophy. “The unexpectedness of the situation was very traumatic and I had symptoms of post-traumatic stress even months after discharge. Having a preemie can be an emotional roller coaster. It is so important to find support and comfort through family, friends and professional resources.”

Sophy said that being in the NICU really helped, where the care team taught her and her husband Sam how to care for their new baby and involved them in the decisions regarding Hugo.

“We developed relationships with our care team and it felt like an extended family. The programs that were offered gave us the tools on how to be parents, and I can now look back at our time in the NICU and cherish the moments I held my baby on my chest.”

Hugo is now a thriving one-year-old, who enjoys a good bed time story. Sophy said that they were very lucky that Hugo didn’t have too many complications during their 100-days’ stay in the NICU. Sophy and Hugo look forward to celebrating the holidays at home, as well as Hugo's adjusted one-year age on Boxing Day, December 26 (the day Hugo was supposed to arrive).


Premature babies

When a baby is born too early, their organs are not fully formed and can cause health problems. Preterm births can be caused by a problem with the fetus, the mother or both. Usually the cause is not known. Some common known causes include problems with the placenta, pregnancy with twins or more, infection in the mother, problems with the uterus or cervix, substance or alcohol use during pregnancy.

In 2015, preterm birth complications were responsible for nearly 1 million deaths and was the main cause of global death under five years of age. Babies born earlier than 26 weeks face a lifetime of potential disabilities such as cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, problems with vision and hearing.

Learn more about BC Women’s NICU 

Learn more about postpartum depression and resources


BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; NICU
Women's Health; Children's Health
SOURCE: Born premature: it's more common than you think ( )
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