I pondered with the view of starting this post with the statistical chance that I had of going into ‘spontaneous preterm labour’ but then I have just returned from Finn’s 1 year corrected development check and I have been firmly shunted into the realisation that it’s not the statistics that matter but on which side of them you fall.
I do know that 1 in 9 babies in the UK are born early; it is less likely to happen at the point of viability (you’ll notice that the UK abortion limit is 24 weeks gestation where it is believed that a foetus becomes viable, that is, able to potentially survive outside the womb); less likely to happen to healthy young Caucasian women; but to be young, white, middle class, healthy and to go into labour at 23 weeks the night before one’s wedding is virtually unheard of.
Survival rates of 23 weekers are also sickeningly low at approximately 15%. Of those 15% who survive the birth itself, many die soon after or may have life long significant health problems: lung disease, poor hearing, blindness, neurological or developmental disorders, Cerebral Palsy.. the list is endless. And so part of writing this blog is not to terrorise with a fact list about that which awaits if you go into early labour, but to educate, offer some comfort to those who might be going through something similar, or have had in the past. Writing it down is something that I have thought about for a while, but feeling that I have for the past year, been living in a state of, I suppose, trauma, I have not felt able until now, to open the laptop and start.
I remember being desperate to seek some support from anybody who had the slightest inclination of what I was going through, desperate to read success stories about terribly sick babies now bouncy toddlers with a medical history as long as their arms but a future unaffected. I craved this but also feared typing #23weeker, #24weeker, #premature, #preemie (a word which for some reason I hate) into Instagram for fear of what I might see that I didn’t want to. So I hope that, whomever this reaches it might give just something, words from somebody through the other side, that I so desperately needed, myself, to read.
Prematurity is a subject about which most know very little. Before it happened to me, I remember knowing that babies were born early, that they had to go into incubators until they were big enough to go home- but that was the extent of it. But if you think about the reality of an early birth, a birth as early as mine for instance, my baby, Finn, missed the entire third trimester. Luckily (if that’s the right word) after a ‘spontaneous maternal PV bleed’ (as I have read so many times about myself in Finn’s medical notes) which caused my going into preterm labour at 23 weeks gestation, I was bluelighted to UCLH London, put on bed rest, tipped backwards almost upside down to counter gravity and given a cocktail of drugs to prevent my labour progressing, Finn was born at 24 weeks and 6 days gestation weighing 730g or 1lb 10oz. This extra week gave Finn an additional 9.5% chance of survival. Little did I know, surviving the birth was just a tiny part of it, for all of us.