When a woman hits the 20th week of her pregnancy, she can congratulate herself on being halfway there. At the same time, she’ll be steeling herself for the next 20 weeks. However, there are cases where birth happens (or has to be made to happen for medical reasons) prematurely. If this occurs after 25 weeks, the baby’s chance of survival is about 80%. At 24 weeks, it’s only 55%. A baby delivered at the 23 week mark has only a 15% chance of survival. Before 23 weeks, it’s near zero.
Courtney Stensrud was in the 20th week of her pregnancy when she was diagnosed with chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the fetal membranes caused by a bacterial infection. The doctors told her they were going to have to induce labor and the sooner, the better. Courtney knew this was very bad news: “There are stories of 22-week babies, 23-week babies, but none born in week 21. So I knew that the odds were small.”
Her daughter ended being born at 21 weeks and 4 days: if she survived, she’d be the earliest preemie known. She weighed a little over 14 ounces and needed to be artificially revived. At many hospitals, it’s a generally accepted that babies born before the usual threshold for viability (the 24th week) shouldn’t be revived. That’s the advice Courtney was given. The baby’s lungs were seriously underdeveloped (the most common problem for preemies) and there were concerns about the blood vessels in her brain. The girl would surely have a very difficult life, plagued by health problems and severe mental impairment.
Courtney decided not to take the doctor’s advice. “I just felt something inside me that said: believe and never give up hope.” Fortunately, she seems to have made the right call. As you’ll see in the video posted below, the girl is now a happy and healthy child!
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