An alarming trend on the rise nationally is elective late pre-term births meaning pregnant woman are either being induced or having C-sections 3 to 6 weeks prior to their due date. It's a practice they don't condone at Avera McKennan because it poses far too many risks for the newborn.
Teresa Meister is from Milbank, but the Avera McKennan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Sioux Falls has been her 2nd home since December 20th when she and her husband Aaron's first child Dylan was born. He came 10 1/2 weeks early and weighed only 2 pounds 13 ounces.
Teresa says, "The first 2 to 3 days of his life we didn't know what he looked like with all that stuff on his face. He had so many tubes and wires hooked up to him. It's hard. You just don't know how you are going to react the first time you walk in to the NICU and see your baby like that."
Dr. Fernando Soares is an Avera Neonatologist who treats premature babies. At Avera McKennan any baby born before 36 weeks is automatically admitted into the NICU. Dr. Soares says 40 weeks is optimal, but many expecting women say the ninth month can become physically overbearing and request late pre-term delivery (3 to 6 weeks before their due date). A practice strongly frowned upon by specialists at Avera McKennan.
Dr. Maria Palmquist with Avera Maternal Fetal Medicine says, "It's a daily battle with my patients. I really encourage moms to consider the safety of the baby. I know it's just a couple more weeks, but you and your baby will go home healthy."
Dr. Soares and Dr. Palmquist say although a 7 lbs. baby may look normal, if it's born 3 to 6 weeks early, it will still be underdeveloped from their brain to their lungs. They typically have a number of respiratory issues, they can't regulate their blood sugar or their body temperature and they can't suck or swallow on their own (which means they need to have a feeding tube put in).
Dr. Fernando Soares Avera Neonatology says, "It definitely puts a stress on the baby and the family. In the long run it's much better to let nature take its course and allow the baby to be fully developed before they're born."
Xavier Daniel Stassen was born yesterday at 40 weeks 2 days gestation. Teresa would have given anything to go full term.
Teresa says, "It's not something you want your child to go through and I would say don't be selfish. It's not worth it. It's really not."
Looking at these babies in the NICU, it's hard to imagine anyone would knowingly put their baby at risk by having them delivered early. Doctors say if you elect to do that, more than likely, they will end up hooked up in here.
Dr. Soares says on average a baby born to term will average a 2 day stay in the hospital. A baby born late pre-term will stay on average 8 days.