So close, but yet…

Apparently I’ve been a little reckless recently. I’ve been feeling a degree of comfort that I’ve got to the third trimester and that everything seems to be progressing fine. So last week, I went a bit crazy and had some aioli with my chips – and given this was at a gastropub, the likelihood is it was homemade with raw eggs. Bad. Then yesterday, not meaning to be reckless I ate some under-done chicken. It was my fault given I had cooked it, and in daylight it looked cooked through, but later on with the blinding electric light on it it looked distinctly pink.

Cue much research into the risks of listeria in the third trimester, when apparently the impact on mother and baby are the worst (due to the mother’s suppressed immune system) – who knew? Babyzone states “An infection occurring later in pregnancy can cause Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), and in the third trimester, listeria can be a cause for premature labor, premature delivery, and ultimately can cause neonatal sepsis, meningitis, and death”. The risk of infant mortality with listeria is huge, at 50%.

After panicking about this for a bit, I did some research into the effects of undercooked chicken specifically. Apparently, listeria isn’t known for hanging around chickens (I think it prefers cows and pigs), and the risk from undercooked chicken is salmonella which would affect me but is less likely to affect the alien.

So after that scare, I think I’ll go back to food paranoia for the next 7 weeks. But that got me thinking about how safe I really was now – what would happen if I went into labour in the next 4 weeks before the alien officially reaches full term?

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Around 8% of births in the UK are preterm, i.e. before 37 weeks, according to the ONS including 330 live births at 22 weeks or less! With advances in medical care, more a more babies born prematurely are surviving although these miraculous survival rates rather hide the long term health problems which premature babies can experience. As Patient explains:

  • A baby born at 36 weeks will probably be a little slow to feed.
  • A baby born before 33 weeks will have more serious problems including, possibly, immature lungs, deafness, blindness, developmental co-ordination disorder, ADHD and cerebral palsy
  • Birth before 28 weeks causes very significant problems but the survival rate is quite remarkable.


  • So going into the final straight, what are the risks for a baby born at 32-36 weeks? March of Dimes tells us that 98-99% of babies born this early will survive although they will be underweight and may need oxygen to support breathing. They will continue to be higher risk than full term babies for feeding, breathing, jaundice and temperature regulation difficulties and are 6 times more likely to die in the first week, and 3 times more likely to die in the first year. In terms of long term impact, a baby’s brain at 35 weeks is only two thirds the size it would be at 40 weeks, so there is an increased risk of learning and behavioural difficulties and cerebral palsy. One study in Pediatrics [Morse, Zheng, Tang & Roth] found: “Risk for developmental delay or disability was 36% higher among late preterm infants compared with term infants. Risk for suspension in kindergarten was 19% higher for late preterm infants. The remaining 4 outcomes, disability in prekindergarten at 3 and 4 years of age, exceptional student education, and retention in kindergarten, all carried a 10% to 13% increased risk among late preterm infants.”

    But the thing we have to remember with these statistics, is that most children do not have developmental difficulties, so a 36% increase in risk is against only a relatively small proportion of children. Most won’t have any issues at all. Indeed, Olympic Team GB cyclist Laura Trott is an ambassador for Bliss, the premature and special care baby charity, having been born a month premature herself.

    This is a great blog on taking the journey with preterm babies, with Samuel (24 weeks!) and Annalee (32 weeks) for those who want to know more.

    For me, at this point what will be, will be – I just need to remember we aren’t out of the woods yet and hold back on the more adventurous gastronomical delights for a little bit longer.

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