Leanne Whitaker knows her twins would not be alive today without the quick efforts by a medical team to stall labor and delay her babies’ birth.
Last year, the west Hull, England mother went into labor when she was just 23 weeks pregnant with her twins, the Hull Daily Mail reports. She said doctors were able to delay her twins’ birth for three more weeks by using surgical stitches to keep them inside the womb.
But at 26 weeks, Whitaker said her water broke and she had to give birth to Kacy and Keira.
“Staff won’t stop a labor after 26 weeks, and I had to wait until I was one hour into the 26-week mark before it was safe to deliver and they would have a higher chance of survival,” she explained.
“Keira weighed 1lb 6oz and suffered with immature lungs and sleep apnoea, but Kacy, who weighed 1lb 9oz, had kidney failure and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), which meant part of his intestine had to be cut away and he had a colostomy bag,” Whitaker continued.
The twins, now 1 year old, left the Hull Royal Infirmary in February, nearly a month after their original due date: Jan. 31, 2017, according to the report.
Whitaker said every day was filled with constant worry, but the twins survived, thanks to the life-saving work of the hospital medical team. Now, the twins are home and improving daily, she said.
This giving season, the British mom decided to give back to the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit. She raised more than £200 for Bliss, a top UK charity for premature babies, according to the report.
Whitaker said she also made three incubator covers with her own money, and she hopes to make more by collecting donations from local businesses.
“When a baby is in an incubator, they are used to being in the complete darkness, and even though the lights are switched off in the unit there are still noises and flashing lights everywhere, which can cause the babies distress,” she explained. “The best way to get a baby’s strength up is keeping them calm and relaxed, and not scared. The incubator covers help add an extra layer of darkness and they feel more protected.”
Her efforts come at a time when more micro-premature babies are surviving and thriving. Up until recently, doctors considered 24 weeks to be the point of viability for an unborn baby, but modern medical advancements have pushed back viability even earlier.
Earlier this month, the journal Pediatrics highlighted a baby girl in the United States who survived after being born 21 weeks and four days after conception. The girl, who now is 3, is believed to be the youngest premature baby to survive.
A Duke University study published in January found babies born at just 23 weeks gestation are surviving outside the womb at a greater rate than ever before. Researchers examined 4,500 babies between 2000 and 2011 and found a “small but significant drop in fatalities for babies born between 23 and 37 weeks gestation,” as well as a decrease in premature babies manifesting with neurophysiological problems, the Daily Mail reported.
Research published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine also found that 23 percent of premature infants are surviving birth as early as 22 weeks. However, the study also found that some hospitals are not giving babies treatment at this early age, despite talk about pushing back the standard viability line from 24 weeks to 23.