Most premature baby born before 22 weeks, now thriving

Most premature baby born before 22 weeks, now thriving

One of the greatest joys for a couple is when they’re expecting a baby. They get super excited about whether they’re having a girl or a boy. They decorate their nursery and have a baby shower. All of that is wonderful, but when you’re expecting a baby there’s only one thing that really matters – that the baby is healthy. One couple had the scare of their lives when their baby was born at 21 weeks because most babies born before 22 weeks have zero hope of surviving. Miraculously their little girl not only survived but is also thriving.

What is a premature baby?

It takes nine months to make a baby. When a mother carries a baby for the full nine months it means that she’s carried it to term. Any babies that are born before the nine months are up are considered premature babies. Some babies are born a week or two early and some are born months early. More problems arise the earlier that a baby is born before the nine months are up. Babies take up to nine months to grow and fully develop, so when they’re born earlier it can lead to complications with the baby. They might not be fully grown or developed. This is especially the case at 22 weeks and earlier.

21-week-old baby

Courtney Stensrud and her husband’s baby was born at just 21 weeks. The usual birth of a baby is around 39 to 40 weeks. The baby, who is now three years old and thriving, is considered either one of or the most premature baby known to have survived, at least according to the case report about her birth that was published in the journal Pediatrics. It’s common practice to inform parents who have a baby that’s born before 22 weeks that there is an incredibly low chance of survival rate. It’s also common practice to not resuscitate babies that are born that early because their chance of survival is so low. So, if that’s the common practice how did this little 21-week-old baby manage to make it?

A mother’s love

When the Stensruds’ baby was born she weighed only 15 ounces. Courtney’s doctor informed her that there was a very small chance that her daughter would survive. At that moment Courtney told CNN, “Although I was listening to him, I just felt something inside of me say, ‘Just have hope and have faith.’ It didn’t matter to me that she was 21 weeks and four days. I didn’t care. As he was talking to me, I just said, ‘Will you try?’ And he said he would…” That doctor’s promise ensured that when the baby was delivered medical personnel put a breathing tube in her airway and listened as her heart rate increased. She had made it over the first hurdle.


Another health concern with a premature baby is the chance of developmental delays. Some babies that are born prematurely can end up with cerebral palsy if their brains aren’t fully developed before they were born. Cerebral palsy can affect speech as well as muscle movement. Other than cerebral palsy children can have learning disabilities as well as other kinds of developmental disabilities. When the Stensruds’ baby was born at 21 weeks, after the hurdle of just surviving, these were the next ones. They weren’t out of the woods yet.

At 20 months the Stensruds’ daughter was smaller than other two-year-olds but other than that there weren’t any physical differences between her and other children her age. Doctors then put the little girl through some developmental tests. The tests would test her cognitive, motor, and language abilities. The little girl passed with flying colors. She was actually 24 months when they tested her and she tested the same as other 20-month-olds. Since the little girl was born so prematurely the fact that she was four months older didn’t really matter so much to them.  Like many other little girls her age, she now attends preschool and is doing well there.

Increase in premature births

Over the past two years, there’s been an increase in premature births in the United States. Between 2015-2016, 8,000 more babies were born prematurely than years previously. The rise in preterm babies means that doctors are paying very close attention to their guidelines and updating them accordingly. Currently, there’s a lot of different variables that go into resuscitating a premature baby. Some of those variables are ethics, long-term health of the infant, as well as health care costs, but doctors who worked with the Stensruds’ baby want to show that just because a baby is born very early (even at 21 weeks) there’s the possibility that they’ll survive and be able to thrive.

The Stensruds’ baby’s doctor is Dr. Kaashif Ahmad and he has pointed out that medically speaking there have been great improvements in premature baby health. He used the example of the Kennedy family, who had a premature son who was born at 34 weeks and died a few days after being born. Today, that baby would have survived. It’s important to note the advances that the medical community is making and to update the guidelines about resuscitating premature babies. More things are possible than ever before.

The Stensruds didn’t want to show a picture of their daughter at her current age because they’d like for her to keep her privacy. As they told CNN unless they tell someone she was a premature baby, no one would ever guess. They wanted to tell their story, however, to give hope to those parents who are also facing a similar situation to what they were facing three years ago. Premature babies can not only survive but also thrive like their daughter currently is. That’s all that a parent can ask for and when push comes to shove it’s all that really matters in the grand scheme of things.


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