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Premature baby with hands no larger than her father’s fingernail now thriving at home

by | Jul 8, 2024

By Right to Life UK

Premature baby Elsie, born at 23 weeks with hands the size of her dad’s fingernails and given only a one in four chance] of survival, is now thriving at home after spending nearly five months in the hospital.

Baby Elsie’s parents, Katie and Rob from Greater Manchester, were overjoyed when they discovered they were expecting a third child. “Rob and I couldn’t wait to expand our family and give Poppy and Madison a little sibling” Katie said.

However, complications during Katie’s pregnancy soon overshadowed their excitement. Diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma, a condition associated with the build up of blood between the wall of the uterus and the sac or membranes that protect the developing baby, Katie experienced heavy bleeding for 15 weeks until Elsie’s premature birth at 23 weeks. The doctors, concerned about the risks of administering medication before the 16th week of pregnancy, could do little to help.

At barely 23 weeks, Katie went into premature labour, and Baby Elsie was delivered weighing just 1lb 1oz, a little more than a bag of sugar, and given a one in four chance of survival.

“I was living with the unknown so I just couldn’t relax or enjoy my pregnancy and even in hospital there was no guarantee she would survive. After I pushed her out, I sat on the bed and looked at her and then was uncontrollably sick”.

“It was horrific because I just didn’t know if I was going to lose Elsie or not”, Katie explained.

“She was so tiny but perfectly formed with her little eyelashes, fingernails and toenails. She was like a little doll”.

“Not even the doctors or nurses had hopes that she would survive but she’s a little fighter – we’re so proud of her”, her mother added.

 A “stormy ride”

Immediately after birth, baby Elsie was rushed to the intensive care unit. She spent nearly 70 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) on a ventilator. Katie describes this period as a “stormy ride”, full of uncertainty and fear.

“A nurse even said to me that we had both gone through one of the most traumatic experiences she’s ever seen on the unit”.

Finally though, after all her ups and downs, Elsie was able to go home with her family and is now a flourishing and healthy little girl weighing a healthy 13lbs 6oz. As she reflected on her first moments with Elsie at home, Katie expressed immense gratitude for the hospital staff. “It was so lovely to welcome her home, but it was scary because for so many months, we relied on nurses and doctors”, Katie said.

Survival rates have improved for babies born below the abortion limit

The story of Elsie shows how improvements in medical technology have led to improved survival rates for premature babies. The last time the abortion limit was lowered in 1990, the improved survival rates for extremely prematurely born babies was one of the key considerations that motivated this change.

By the same logic, and informed by the improved survival rates for babies born at 22 and 23 weeks gestation, the abortion time limit should also be lowered now.

Key studies in recent years have documented the improving outcomes for these babies. In the decade to 2019 alone, the survival rate for extremely premature babies born at 23 weeks doubled, prompting new guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) that enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks gestation. The previous clinical guidance, drafted in 2008, set the standard that babies who were born before 23 weeks gestation should not be resuscitated.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “It’s wonderful to hear baby Elsie is now home with her parents and siblings and is thriving. The resilience shown by premature babies in their early days is truly inspiring. Sharing these stories is vital to help legislators understand the humanity of these smallest members of society and ensure that our laws reflect their value”.

Categories: Premature babies