Premature births: Baby born at 22 weeks survives against odds

A baby given less than a 10% chance of surviving when she was born at 22 weeks has beaten the odds and is thriving, her parents have said.

Imogen weighed 515g (1lb 1oz) when she was born at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital on 6 September.

Now, after 132 days in hospital, the six-month-old is back home in Bridgend.

Her mother Rachel Stonehouse, 28, said: “Imogen has gone through so much and more than we will ever go through in our lifetime and she smashed it.”

The world’s most premature surviving baby is thought to be Curtis Zy-Keith Means from the USA, born at 21 weeks and one day, 11 days earlier than Imogen.

Rachel initially went to Bridgend’s Princess of Wales Hospital, just days after the gender reveal party for Imogen, with a bleed before her waters broke and she and her partner Corey were taken by ambulance to Singleton Hospital.

“It was so scary,” she said.

“The pain was horrendous… I just went into survival mode for me and my baby and tried to just keep breathing through the pain.”

Imogen was delivered just minutes after arriving at the hospital and was immediately placed in a bag in an incubator to mimic the womb.

Rachel said seeing her new, tiny baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and taking in her extremely fragile and translucent image was “like an out-of-body experience”.

She said she remembered thinking: “This baby should be in my stomach but she’s not. This foetus is now my baby in front of me and I now have to trust all these people around me.”

Rachel and Corey were told their baby had a grade three bleed on the brain.

Over the 98 days she spent in NICU she overcame countless obstacles, including a heart murmur, a pulmonary haemorrhage, sepsis and numerous blood transfusions.

“She was poked and prodded all day, every day but I had to remember this was to make her better,” said Rachel.

Midwives helped Rachel to express colostrum and with their help she was able provide breast milk for Imogen until it dried up at about 16 weeks.

The hospital housed the couple nearby for 13 weeks to make sure they could be with Imogen as much as possible and offered post-traumatic stress disorder counselling.

On 15 January, Imogen was moved to the special care baby unit at the Princess of Wales Hospital where she spent a further 34 days.

“It was the scariest time of my life but I would never know it because of how amazing the staff has been with me and my family. They always trusted me as a mum and my instincts.”

Imogen is now home, but still requires oxygen and Rachel said doctors were happy with her organs and she has no sight or hearing problems.

Rachel said the reason she went into premature labour was unclear, but she has been told she has a 40% chance of it happening again.

For now she is loving every minute of being a new mum and said she would be forever grateful to the NHS.

“When they say these nurses and doctors are superheroes in scrubs they are not lying”, she said.

“We wouldn’t have got through everything we have without them all.”


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