When River Willis was born, he was so small that his parents could fit him in the palm of their hands.
Now, the once-tiny premature infant is home and thriving with his parents and three older siblings.
The Sun reports baby River was born after just 24 weeks and four days of pregnancy. His mother, Cara, said she developed a rare placental abruption in July 2018, and had to have an emergency C-section to save her son’s life.
“He was so early that his skin was still see-through. He also had a big bag over him to keep him warm and loads of wires around him,” his mother remembered. “He was about half the size of the little teddy bears around him.”
For five months, River stayed in the hospital, battling sepsis, weight loss and other struggles typical with very premature babies, according to the report.
Today, his parents said he is doing well at their home in Tredeger, South Wales.
River received extensive medical care that saved his life; but if he had been born just a week earlier, he may not have. In Wales, doctors are not required to try to save a baby’s life if they are born prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy or weigh less than 1 pound. Babies also may be aborted up to 24 weeks in the United Kingdom.
Some families of micro-premies have been urging the UK to change its laws to recognize modern medical advances that are saving premature babies earlier and earlier. Anita Hyams, who gave birth to her son William in 2016 at 23 weeks and five days, is one of them.
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“People have abortions at 24 weeks and yet look at William, he is alive and kicking and a fully-formed baby,” said Hyams, an intensive care nurse. “I was only 23 weeks pregnant when I went into labour and I knew that people could have abortions up to 24 weeks. After my experience, I think the abortion limit should be lower, or at least the limit should be lowered for when they will resuscitate a premature baby to 22 weeks.”
The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s survival story. She was 3 at the time of the article’s publication.
A Duke University study published in 2017 reported that babies born at just 23 weeks 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 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 as early as 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, the study also found that some hospitals do not treat babies at this early age.