Monday, November 22, 2010

IUGR or Pre-term?

This morning one of my prenatal girls proudly brought in her precious little girl for me to meet. She was beaming! When I looked beneath the blankets though, my breath caught in my throat. She was tiny! So small in fact, I had to touch her briefly to make sure she was alive.

“When was your baby born, honey?” She certainly didn’t look like she just gave birth. She was too rested and relaxed.
“Last Sunday.” She said with a smile.
“Oh, you had her yesterday?” I offered.
“No. The Sunday before.” I must have looked confused, so she repeated herself. “You know, a week ago.”

I had to marvel at this little package of estrogen. Could she really be a week old, already?
“She is so small. Why didn’t you come before now?” I asked.
“Oh... we have a tradition in our culture. You cannot take babies out of the home for several days. If it’s a girl you must wait 4 days. But if it’s a boy then you wait only 3 days.”
“I see. Can I do a exam on your baby to see how old she is?”
“Of course you can. I’m here for a check-up anyway.”

I smiled and held back my concern. She certainly didn’t act like she was fighting to live... but she was so small. When I got her on the scale, flash backs of last weeks premature births blasted through my brain. In fact, the second premature baby weighed more than she did! She only weighed 1500 grams (3.3 lbs!).

But as I checked her out... all her vitals were stable and she seemed healthy in every way. So I did a Ballard’s Score on her. This is a test done on newborns to help determine if they are premature and, if so, how much. It tests reflexes, neurological development and physical maturity attributes. It’s only meant to give a general range but it can help differentiate between a small but term baby and a premature newborn.

When I checked her reflexes, postures and muscle tone, she passed with flying colors. Her neurological development was spot on. In fact, I didn’t see anything amiss except her size. At the end of the exam, it was clear to me I was dealing with a severely IUGR baby and not a preterm one.

For those who don’t know, IUGR stands for Intra-uterine Growth Restriction. It means the baby was unable to develop and grow at a normal rate in utero. Something hindered her. It could have been from placental insufficiency or maternal life-style (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes). It is also caused by poor nutrition and illness (chronic or infectious).

I’m not sure what caused hers... but it’s the most severe case I’ve seen to date.

Fortunately, she is fine and eating fairly well. I asked her mom to bring her in regularly so we can monitor her growth. She said she’ll come. I have a feeling she will.