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Tuesday, September 08, 2009
The 21 Week Controversy

A Mom in the UK is taking on a medical council after her baby, born at 21 weeks 5 days, was refused medical assistance following his early arrival.

Sarah Capewell is now fighting for a review of the medical guidelines.

During an interview with the Dailymail, Sarah said medics allegedly told her that they would have tried to save the baby if he had been born two days later, at 22 weeks.

In fact, the medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals in the UK state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks.

The guidance, drawn up by the Nuffield Council, is not compulsory but advises doctors that medical intervention for very premature children is not in the best interests of the baby, and is not 'standard practice'.

Sarah's re-count of Jayden's birth is heartbreaking. She recalls that the newborn 'put out his arms and legs and pushed himself over'.

A midwife who has assisted her said he was breathing and had a strong heartbeat, and described him as a "little fighter".

Through the whole ordeal, the new mom kept asking for the doctors but the midwife said, "They won't come and help, sweetie. Make the best of the time you have with him".'

She cuddled her child and took precious photos of him, but he died in her arms less than two hours after his birth.

After suffering complication during her pregnancy, Sarah went into labour last October at 21 weeks 4 days.

Because she had not reached 22 weeks, she was refused injections to try to stop the labour, or a steroid injection to help to strengthen her baby's lungs.

Instead, doctors told her to treat the labour as a miscarriage, not a birth, and to expect her baby to be born with serious deformities or even to be still-born.

She has now taken her fight to the internet and set up a website in Jayden's memory.

Many people have commented with support, but the most poignant comment came from an NICU doctor.

I am a doctor who works in a NICU and have done so for some years. I try to give every baby a chance, but I am also a realist. A baby born at 22/40 has no chance of surivival. Indeed, even at 23 weeks, there is only about 20% chance of survival and the majority will have significant disability. Instituting intensive care would be a painful, but brief prolongation of a life for a child born at 22 weeks. Jayden's picture shows him to be a lovely and well formed baby, but still quite foetal. We would not be able to put drips in, and I suspect putting a breathing tube without damaging his fragile airway would have been impossible. I am truly sorry for your loss, but I believe your campaign is against the best interests of these children.

While researching her cause, Sarah was shocked to discover that another child, born in the U.S. at 21 weeks and six days into her mother's pregnancy, had survived.

Amillia Taylor was born in Florida in 2006 and celebrated her second birthday last October. She is the youngest premature baby to survive.

She said: 'I could not believe that one little girl, Amillia Taylor, is perfectly healthy after being born in Florida in 2006 at 21 weeks and six days.

'Thousands of women have experienced this. The doctors say the babies won't survive but how do they know if they are not giving them a chance?'

Personal note: As many of you know, my son was born at 24 weeks 1 day weighing 675gms. Before his arrival, I spend quite a few weeks in the hospital on bed rest trying to keep him safe. At 23 weeks 5 days, I went into labor and was told that doctors would not resuscitate the baby if he arrived on that day. Lucky for me I was able to stop the contractions and hold off the delivery. Having him at 21 weeks 5 days would have never been an option in this Province.

Secondly, I believe that Sonya Taylor, Amillia Taylor's mom told the doctors she was further along than she was in order for them to give their daughter medical care.

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