Eight months ago, I had never heard of IUGR. In fact, when my sister-in-law had to be induced before her due date because of a failing placenta, I am ashamed to say I thought the doctors were wrong. “Why would you take a baby early who isn’t growing well? Shouldn’t she stay in longer?”
Well, things have changed – a lot! I have learned about as much as I, a layperson and mom of an IUGR baby, can learn in the past eight months, ever since Theodore was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction. In honor of this day, to celebrate these strong babies and remember those who we have lost, here are ten things you should know about IUGR:
- IUGR refers to a condition in which an unborn baby is smaller than it should be because it is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb. A baby who is “just small” is called Small for Gestation Age (SGA). The difference is an IUGR baby should have been bigger, but something intervened (infection, injury, genetic condition, bad placenta, poor nutrition from mom, etc.). An SGA baby is just a small baby. Both are usually smaller than ninety percent of babies their age. (More on the confusion over these terms here. Sometimes they are used interchangeably, but they are not the same.)
- IUGR is common for twins, and mothers with certain health conditions or lifestyles. However, there are TONS of possible causes and most moms never know what caused their baby’s IUGR. Sometimes, nature just fails and the placenta wasn’t healthy; importantly: it is no one’s fault.
- For those of us who do not know what caused our IUGR, we worry a lot about whether this will happen if and when we have more babies. There is a lot of conflicting data on it, but it certainly can happen. Which is scary.
- Many of us find out about IUGR during pregnancy, by going to all our regular prenatal appointments and through ultrasounds. Some of us do not find out until delivery. Which is why it is super important to go to all your doctor’s appointments when you are pregnant. Important.
- If you know someone who may have IUGR, please be supportive and helpful. It is not helpful to try to convince the person there is no problem, the doctor’s do not know what they are talking about, and the ultrasound was probably wrong. These could be true, but when you hear there could be something wrong with your baby, you have to be extremely cautious and careful. Supportive and helpful things are assisting the person in getting the nursery ready early, supplying preemie size diapers and clothes, coming with her to her many doctor’s appointments, and lending her food and help if she on bedrest.
6. So an IUGR baby is small – so what? Like just about all health conditions, the outcomes for IUGR babies cover a broad range. Some babies are born perfectly healthy and go home right away with no problem. Some babies are lost to the condition. Some babies have some catching up to do in the size department, but are otherwise perfectly healthy. Some babies have on-going complications and require medications, hormones, or therapy to help them grow and overcome other issues.
7. We are pretty sensitive about our IUGR baby’s size, because he or she can be small for several months to several years. So if you ever see a baby and are shocked at his or her size, please don’t ask if the mom feeds her baby. Please don’t joke that she must be wrong about the baby’s age. Just say how cute he or she is. We don’t mind hearing that, ever.
8. IUGR babies are usually delivered earlier than their due date. Some because there is an emergency. Some go into labor early on their own. But some of us have to be induced a few weeks early because the statistical risk of still birth increases after 37 weeks for IUGR babies. Basically, our baby is probably starving inside our bodies, and at 37 weeks he or she is healthy enough to probably be fine outside (with medical help, usually), and will even thrive because he can get lots of clean oxygen and nutrients outside. On the other hand, leaving the baby inside until the due date or later could cause significant injury to the baby, or loss.
9. Many of us have c-sections. Again, either because of an emergency or because the baby is too small to handle labor. Not all of us, but many of us. Personally, I do not see my induction and c-section as a failure or that I’m not “woman enough.” I am incredibly proud of what God allowed me to do: bring my son into this world. It is not my fault my baby was tiny. It was not my fault his little body could not tolerate labor. I am truly grateful that my baby is safe and healthy and I am, too. Was it my first choice? No. But every mom, whether unconscious during delivery or having a medication-free birth, does the same thing in labor: she is doing everything she can to get her baby here safe and sound.
10. Finally, though they are small, IUGR babies are tough. They are tiny warriors that do incredible things. They may not all make it, but they are all fighters, through and through. And we are crazy proud of them.