Today is a very special day for me and my family. We're celebrating IUGR Awareness day; my amazing daughter, Emily; and IUGR babies across the globe.
When we were provided with an IUGR diagnosis, we were told that my baby wasn't growing in the womb.
If you've ever looked up this serious medical condition, there's not much research about prevention or the causes of this diagnosis.
In honor of IUGR Awareness Day, many parents, families, and friends who have been impacted by IUGR are working to improve education about this medical condition, including the importance of good prenatal and neonatal care for patients. Many of us hope to encourage more research on IUGR in order to discover its causes, develop treatments, and ultimately find a cure.
At least 168 people across the world are celebrating this special day by participating in a virtual 5K to benefit the Graham's Foundation, an organization that provides support to parents of preemies. My family completed the virtual 5K at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. I'm thankful to all who are participating in this worthy initiative.
Below are five facts that I've learned from my personal experience about IUGR:
1. IUGR occurs when there is reduced fetal physical growth during gestation.
During my pregnancy, the doctors told me that my baby wasn't growing. I had ultrasounds every two weeks for the majority of my pregnancy. The ultrasounds were used to measure my baby's abdominal circumference, head circumstance, and estimated weight. Doppler scans were used to check blood flow to and from the baby -- and to help determine when I needed to be hospitalized and when a c-section was necessary.
I was hospitalized for reverse-end diastolic flow. Hospitalization helped me keep my baby cooking. It allowed me to achieve intermittent flow for three weeks -- until reverse end-diastolic flow was found once more. At that time, the doctors told me that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) could take better care of my baby than I could with her inside of me.
2. The most common definition used for IUGR is fetal weight below the 10th percentile for gestational age, meaning that the fetus weighs less than 90 percent of all fetuses that age.
My daughter, Emily, was born weighing just one pound, eight ounces. She was just 12 inches long. Due to her extremely low birth weight, Emily was considered a micro-preemie.
Today, she is 26 months old (23 months adjusted). She is a little more than 20 pounds and about 31 inches tall. She is currently following her own growth chart.
3. The cause of IUGR is often unknown.
In many cases, no one knows the cause of IUGR. It may be caused by insufficiency of the placenta, chromosomal or other congenital abnormalities, high blood pressure, infections of the mother and the fetus, malnutrition, smoking, drugs, alcohol, and a host of other factors. But in many cases, IUGR appears to be a complete mystery.
I don't know what exactly caused IUGR during my pregnancy. I had a geriatric placenta and experienced reverse end diastolic flow -- but we don't know exactly why these conditions occurred during my pregnancy.
4. Many IUGR babies are born prematurely and require extended NICU stays.
Emily was born at 28 weeks gestation.
Thanks to the doctors and nurses at the NICU, Emily was given a chance to survive and thrive.
Emily's NICU journey had many bumps, but for the most part, we were very lucky.
She spent 67 long and challenging days in the NICU.
Some IUGR babies require longer NICU stays. Others require shorter stays in the hospital.
Emily was discharged from the hospital weighing just three pounds, 10 ounces. At home, we were responsible for her care 24 hours a day -- seven days a week. And, we could hold her whenever we wanted!
5. Many IUGR babies endure long-term complications, including gastrointestinal reflux, feeding disorders, developmental delays, neurological impairments, learning disabilities, and eye problems, such as Retinopathy of Prematurity. Although IUGR babies may experience medical and developmental issues after birth, many go on to lead full and meaningful lives.
Some stories have better outcomes than others. Emily's story is a miracle.
Today, Emily is a happy and healthy toddler. She is taking a "Mommy and Me" gymnastics class and loves to draw pictures on paper -- and sometimes the walls. Her biggest challenges are feeding and speech-related.
Emily wouldn't be where she is today without the care I received from my perinatologists -- or without the care she received from neonatologists and nurses at our Level III NICU. And, Emily wouldn't have survived without all of the research and medical technology that is available today.
We are very blessed.
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Thanks in advance for your efforts to increase awareness about IUGR -- and have a great weekend!
NOTE: I am not a medical professional. I am a parent who had a baby with an IUGR diagnosis. The information I provide in this blog post is meant to encourage and support parents of IUGR babies -- and increase awareness about this medical condition. It is not intended to replace the advice or expertise of medical professionals. Please contact your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your baby.