Sophie Dennis still wonders “what if” when she thinks about her late baby daughter.
Dennis developed complications 22 weeks into her pregnancy and went into labor on Oct. 16. But when her daughter, Autumn Orion Dennis, was born alive, doctors refused to do anything to attempt to save her, saying she was “not viable,” according to The Sun.
Dennis said she knows Autumn’s chances of survival would have been slim, but she still wonders if her daughter would be alive today if she had pleaded more with doctors to save her life.
Hospitals in the United Kingdom often do not attempt to treat babies born before 24 weeks or those born weighing less than 1 pound, because they say they are not likely to survive. Abortions also are legal up to 24 weeks in the UK.
Though 24 weeks is considered the standard point of viability, new studies indicate babies born before 24 weeks are surviving at higher rates than ever before. The youngest known infant to survive was 21 weeks and four days gestation; the little girl now is 3 years old.
“I don’t know if she would have survived but even if we had tried and nothing could be done at least we had tried,” Dennis said. “She might still be here.”
On Oct. 16, complications from blood clots caused Dennis to go into premature labor. Autumn was born weighing just 410 grams (0.9 pounds) at birth.
The British mother said she was 22 weeks and six days pregnant; however, the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle contends that she was 22 weeks and two days.
The difference in calculation could be one reason why the doctors would not resuscitate Autumn, her mother contended. After Autumn’s death, Dennis said she learned that several British hospitals have worked to save babies born at 23 weeks – just one day later than she believes Autumn was born.
“I now know we could have had a team on standby if I had begged a doctor to do something,” she said. “I’m always going to live with the ‘what if’. What if I had pushed for it, would she still be here? Would she be in an incubator thriving?”
The grieving mother said she did not know that resuscitating her baby girl was even an option when she was born. The hospital only offered her comfort care.
“I didn’t feel we had that option to fight for her,” she said. “She was placed on my chest and we had a few hours like that skin to skin, her little heart beating hard at work.
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“We couldn’t do anything to help our little girl but try and be strong, and make her feel as loved, warm and comfortable as we possibly could until she passed away, and in that very moment our hearts broke all over again,” Dennis continued.
She recently began a petition asking for British health care leaders to change the guidelines for premature infant care from 24 weeks to 22. In the UK, 24 weeks also is the abortion limit.
Her petition has more than 15,000 signatures. Find it here.
“She was a human being, she was another life,” Dennis said. “She had rights and so did we as her parents but they were taken away from us and decided for us that night.
“No one has a crystal ball, no one can predict if our child that night may or may not have survived based on other babies because they are all individuals. But with help things could have been completely different, she could have had that chance if everything wasn’t decided for us and her, based on mistakes made and lack of communication,” she continued.
Earlier this year, another British mom, Camille Magill, said a hospital left her premature son to die because he was born before the legal abortion limit. She said her son Alfie gasped for air and then died shortly after he was born at 23 weeks of pregnancy in 2015. She said she was told that Alfie was stillborn.
Carlie Underhill, 23, of Hereford, England, also watched her newborn son Kian-John die last year when he was born at just 22 weeks of pregnancy. Because he was born so early, doctors described Kian-John’s birth as a miscarriage, and did not try to save his life, his mother said.
Scottish mom Ashley Glass went through a similar experience with her son Dylan. She also is urging the UK health care system to change its guidelines for premature babies.
Glass gave birth to Dylan when she was 23 weeks pregnant in 2014. Dylan lived for just four minutes, and Glass said she had to watch in horror and desperation as she saw him struggle to breathe.
The families said they hope their stories will convince the NHS to update its guidelines for premature babies and prompt hospitals to provide care to very premature infants like their sons.