When Michele Imel-Kebe was pregnant with her twin daughters and experiencing contractions at 34 weeks, she faced an excruciating choice: whether to deliver both prematurely, or to try and delay the pregnancy even though one of them, Ava, was no longer growing, was losing fluid, and was experiencing reduced blood flow from the placenta.
“We know that the more time a baby is in the womb, the better it is for the baby’s development and health,” says Michele. “So the doctors wanted to delay delivery until 37 weeks. However, I had already delivered a stillborn baby before even though when I arrived at the hospital her heart was still beating. So I knew it was dangerous to keep a baby inside when the baby was in distress, as the risk of stillborn goes up drastically. I just refused to go through that again.”
Fortunately, both girls were delivered with few complications. Bella, the challenged one, needed to wear a CPAP for a few hours, but otherwise neither required feeding tubes nor spent time in a NICU. And today at 4 months, both are healthy and doing well.
The mother, on the other hand, almost didn’t survive. Thirty minutes after she delivered, Michele had heavy internal bleeding and fluid was flowing from the incision site. Three surgeries later with one ovary and one fallopian tube removed, she was able to slowly recover.
Michele said she is hopeful that the new March of Dimes Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis will achieve major milestones that will help bring more babies to term. And help both families and babies when the baby is delivered prematurely.
“We need all the research we can to prevent babies from delivering early,” she says. “Just keeping them inside the mother even a week longer offers so many benefits. I would tell any woman experiencing what I did that, even though it’s scary, it’s best if possible to keep them inside. However, if you have the right doctors like I did at Barnes Jewish, they can come out early and there are things doctors can do that my own body couldn’t. So hopefully with more research, we’ll have even more options for women who deliver prematurely, or who can have a positive intervention that can extend the pregnancy and deliver a healthier baby.”