It was a sweet surprise when Michelle Waltz of Quakertown found out she and her husband, Keith, were expecting baby No. 3. After Michelle’s previous births where both babies were full term (40 weeks) and healthy, the couple never expected their third pregnancy would lead them to the hospital so soon.
Michelle began experiencing high blood pressure in her second trimester. During pregnancy, high blood pressure is a condition known as preeclampsia, which can lead to serious complications if left untreated or if a mother’s system doesn’t respond to medication. Even with medical treatment, Michelle’s blood pressure was still dangerously high. The only option was to deliver her baby early to lower her blood pressure.
“Our care team did a great job explaining to us what could happen and listened to what our wishes were. We had to answer some difficult questions that you never expect to answer about your child, let alone before your child is even born,” Michelle says.
Michelle gave birth to their third son, Hunter, at just 24 weeks old. He was about the size of a Barbie doll, weighing 454 grams (1 pound) at birth. Hunter was so tiny that his first blood pressure cuffs fit on his mother’s pinky finger.
“The range of survival of a baby delivered at 24 weeks old is vast, anywhere from 25 to 50 percent. A third of those surviving will go on to have moderate to severe disability,” Roberts says.