It’s a joy to see preemie babies grow into healthy toddlers like Amelia Cummings, pictured here ready to start her first day at school!
Born at 25 weeks registering just 1lb 12 oz, Amelia weighed less than a pineapple at birth and lived in an incubator for the first three months of her life.
Amelia’s mum Julie was naturally worried that Amelia’s size could affect her long term health and development.
“When she was born, she was absolutely tiny, we were really worried that she wouldn’t make it to this point at all, or whether she should have difficulties with her development because of being so premature.”
Premature birth can be a very worrying time for mothers and fathers. A baby born before the full gestational period of 38 to 42 weeks will not have reached full development which increases their risk of being born with, or developing, health problems.
But Amelia has defied the increased risks that can go with prematurity and developed into a fit and healthy toddler,
“We look back on how small she was and how much has changed in that time, for a while we thought she wasn’t going to be able to go to mainstream school, and we’re just so proud.”
Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Research Centre in London is currently doing pioneering research into methods to reduce the chance of premature babies suffering long term health issues. The centre also runs a Preterm Surveillance Clinic to put our research into action and help over 1,300 new patients each year.
Our latest impact report shows that our clinic is making a real difference. Of 120 women treated at the clinic who are classed as “high risk” having previously lost a baby, 90% have gone on to have a healthy baby after visiting the clinic and having their pregnancy with the support of Tommy’s clinicians.
Tommy’s preterm research also includes working on supporting parents and babies after birth and trying to reduce the risk of long term health issues using medicines, such as the use of targeted steroids to improve baby’s lung function.
Remember, being born prematurely does not necessarily mean that your baby will have problems with development as Amelia has shown.
Behavioural difficulties have been found to be more common in preemies but some disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can be managed with therapies and medication.
As your baby is growing up you may find yourself faced with multiple specialist appointments or trips to the paediatricians. But this should settle down into a planned course of treatment or therapy after a while which will give your little one any extra support they may need.
Remember as well, progress and development in terms of reaching academic milestones is just one aspect of your baby’s life. Whilst being born prematurely may mean that your child has to work harder than others to concentrate or excel at school, this does not need to affect his or her capacity for happiness.
Even though early birth can mean preemies have a slower start in terms of growth and development, when asked to rate their quality of life or self-esteem, young adults born very prematurely do not score differently from those born at term.
As Amelia Cummings shows, being born prematurely does not need to stop your baby going on to enjoy a full and successful life.
It is important to recognise and celebrate all of the challenges and triumphs that your child has, their first day at school as just one example – good luck Amelia!
If you have a premature baby and want to know more about what you should do to combat potential health risks, read more information here.
Read more about your child’s growth and development .
How has helping prematurity changed over the last decade? Read more about our work and the latest advancements on prematurity in our recent pre-term impact report.
Are you interested in being referred to our prematurity research centre at St Thomas’s Hospital in London? If so, read more about the research and trials taking place here.