Stay, baby stay!
Premature delivery is something that UK medical professionals are well prepared for and there are a number of advanced, specialist neonatal care units across the country. When a baby is born before 37 weeks, there will be lots of support available to ensure the best possible outcomes.
But early labour, and the risks it can bring, is still frightening for parents-to-be. Here one father tells us of his experience.
A family of early birds – well, no-one told me!
Towards the end of her pregnancy my wife was getting somewhat impatient. It seemed that, despite an initial period of morning sickness, the early months of the pregnancy had just breezed past. But by the third trimester, feeling heavy and uncomfortable, she just wanted the baby to be born.
I, however, was still waiting to become 100% mentally prepared for the arrival of our baby and, like a sixth former desperately trying to swat up in the final couple of weeks before an exam, was hoping I would have some kind of last minute epiphany that would make me completely confident and ready for parenthood.
Fed up and hormonally charged, my wife kept saying she hoped the baby would come early, and then she started saying she felt sure the baby was on its way, but, for me, I knew the good reasons why full term pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks.
As someone who works as a television researcher, I’d done my homework and knew that although slightly premature delivery of a baby is usually fine, (anything before 37 weeks is considered early) it does also bring a number of potential problems and I was concerned about fractionally increased risk of all of the following:
- Less developed temperature regulation – Babies born prematurely have less body fat and less ability to effectively regulate their own temperature.
- Low blood sugar – Premature babies are more likely to develop hypoglycaemia.
- Breathing difficulties – Babies born early are more likely to suffer respiratory difficulties.
- Infection – Premature babies are at increased risk of infections, including sepsis, which can be fatal.
- – In full term babies, 2.5% develop jaundice, compared to 18% of premature babies.
- Latching issues – Early babies may not quite have the same feeding capability or stamina as those born full term.
So, when my wife sent me a text at 36 weeks (yes, the first I knew of the impending arrival of my first child came via text!) to tell me excitedly that she thought she was in labour (complete with thumbs-up emoji) I admit that my first thought was, “Oh, please let it not be so.”
I quickly left the office, explaining to my colleagues that it was almost certainly a false alarm and that I’d doubtless be back by the afternoon and my journey home was spent working out lots of arguments in my head to try to convince her she wasn’t in labour; I was prepared to beg her to try to hold it in for another week.
However, when I got there, the first thing my partner did was show me the watery mark on our cream sofa. Her waters had broken.
We were quickly on the phone to the midwife and within an hour we were at the hospital – within 18 hours our beautiful blue-eyed son was blinking in my arms having been born via a normal spontaneous vaginal delivery (nsvd) and weighing in at a reassuringly robust 6lbs 9 ozs.
As for my checklist of fears? Well, there were some early difficulties regulating blood sugar and body temp and he also seemed, most despairingly, to be unable to breastfeed: he simply wouldn’t latch on.
In fact, it took around four weeks of messing around with pipes and pumps before breastfeeding became relatively straightforward, and it was only at this point that he began to properly gain weight.
Looking back on it all, even my partner agrees that she may have been a bit hasty: it would most probably have been easier on every front had our son gone to full-term.
However, I now know that her own mother had all of her three children slightly prematurely, while my sister-in-law recently had her first child – 5lbs 6ozs at 35 weeks – so I am tempted to believe, admittedly without any evidence outside that of my own experience, that there might be a genetic component to a woman’s chances of going into early labour.
And why didn’t any one of them tell me!