‘Most Premature’ Baby Born at 21 Weeks, Now Thriving at Age 3


When the average pregnant woman reaches the 20-week mark, she usually assumes that she is about halfway through her pregnancy. She might be preparing for the birth of her baby, but it will be months before she goes into labor.

For Courtney Stensrud, the 20-week mark meant that her daughter would be born very soon. Unfortunately, this mother’s experience in delivering a premature baby is not rare.

A baby born earlier than 37 weeks gestation is considered to be premature, according to the World Health Organization. This organization has estimated that 15 million babies are born every year before 37 weeks.

The outcome of Stensrud’s preterm labor and delivery was miraculously unique, though. Her daughter was just 21 weeks and 4 days when she was born.

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Stensrud went into premature labor after experiencing a pregnancy complication known as chorioamnionitis, an infection of the placental membranes and amniotic fluid. She also experienced a premature rupture of membranes.

Yet, her baby girl survived. Not only did she survive, but she is now a thriving 3-year-old.

Attempting to resuscitate or assessing for viability before 22 weeks gestation is generally not a recommended practice among obstetric and pediatric societies as stated in a “Pediatrics” journal case report. This case report focused on the birth of Stensrud’s daughter.

It also stated, “In this context, we report the unimpaired 2-year outcome of a female infant resuscitated after delivery at 21 weeks’ 4 days’ gestation and 410 g birth weight. She may be the most premature known survivor to date.”

Stensrud, 35, told CNN, “There were stories of 22-weekers, 23-weekers, but nothing about 21-weekers. So I knew that there was little to no survival or viability at 21 weeks.”

Despite knowing a 21-weeker’s chances of survival were slim, she fought for her daughter’s chance. Dr. Kaashif Ahmad, a lead author of the case report and MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist, met this new mom of a 21-weeker minutes after the baby was born.

Ahmad advised Stensrud that her baby not be resuscitated. He was concerned about the severe underdevelopment of the baby’s lungs and the fragility of her brain’s blood vessels.

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If she survived, the health problems would likely be serious. Mother’s intuition told Stensrud otherwise: “Although I was listening to him, “I just felt something inside of me say, ‘Just have hope and have faith.’”

She told CNN, “As he was talking to me, I just said, ‘Will you try?’ And he said he would, and three years later, we have our little miracle baby.”

The baby’s umbilical cord was clamped, her body’s temperature was raised in a warmer, and her airway received a breathing tube. The immediate result of these efforts was that her skin became pink, indicating her body was responding well.

The long-term results are even more incredible. She is now a healthy preschooler with no major health complications.

All of our advances in science and technology are doing more than merely giving us fancier handheld devices. As we learn more and more, we can use that to help people and increase the possibilities of miracle children like Stensrud’s daughter!

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