IUGR stands for Intrauterine Growth Restriction which basically means that the unborn baby is not growing at a normal rate and is considerably smaller than average for a particular gestational age. Not all small babies have IUGR though. The difference between low birth weight and IUGR is that the latter puts the baby at risk of various health issues during pregnancy, labour and also after birth.
It can be caused by a number of different things, the placenta not working the way it should, birth defects, smoking and drinking in pregnancy or if you are like me, for no apparent reason whatsoever. My placenta was fine, I didn’t smoke or drink, my blood pressure was fine, my weight was within the normal range, I guess I just drew the shitty straw.
Both my two were born via induction at 38 weeks and weighed under 6lbs. My first, Eloise, weighed 5lbs 13oz at 38 weeks exactly and my second, Lily, weighed 5lbs 7.5oz at 38+2 weeks both dropping down to 5lbs 1oz within the first few days.
My first pregnancy was pretty normal, I measured small at about 34 weeks and was sent for a scan but everything showed Eloise was the right weight for her gestation and was currently sitting at about 6lbs. She ended up being born via induction 4 weeks later at 5lbs 13oz so either she hadn’t grown at all the last few weeks or the scan was wrong. She was born with a heart murmur, whether this was due to her size I don’t know but she was healthy in every other way.
My second pregnancy was very, very different. I was considered high risk and was consultant led anyway because I had retained placenta after my first birth and my initial thoughts were it would be a quick appointment with them explaining some measures to help avoid that happening again and that would be that. I was wrong, obviously.
I was about 26 weeks I think when I had my first consultant appointment, it was a ridiculous amount of weeks late because I kept having to cancel for various reasons but I eventually got there. Everything was okay, they discussed how the risk of having retained placenta again wasn’t significant and to try not to worry. The consultant also mentioned about previous low birth weight, I had been told at the time that there were not really any concerns about Eloise’s weight but apparently not. Anyway, they decided to measure my bump which had not long been measure by my community midwife who found it to be slightly on the small side but I was small anyway so she wasn’t concerned. Turns out I was measuring nearly 6 weeks behind. After a scan referral it was discovered that my baby had IUGR.
From that appointment on my pregnancy consisted of bi weekly CTGs, fortnightly growth scans, weekly fluid level and cord flow scans, steroid injections and various emergency CTGs and scans dotted in between. I was told to prepare for my baby needing to be delivered at any point from now. During this time is when I really began to appreciate the doctors and midwives who were absolutely fantastic, every single one of them. I cannot fault any of them and they were forever reassuring me and making me feel so at ease. It was decided that I would be induced at around the 36 week mark if baby stayed in that long and everything was going well.
Carrying an IUGR baby is incredibly nerve wracking and exhausting. I found myself envying other Mums to be who could enjoy their pregnancy and spend more than 2 days without going to the hospital or those who can go into labour naturally. It was worrying about how premature your baby is going to be and whether you will be able to hold them after they’ve been born or if they are going to need to be taken to the NICU. It’s a whole truck tonne of unknowns with another truck tonne of worry added on. It’s buying every sized premature sleep suit because you just don’t know how small they’re going to be and packing your hospital bag in the second trimester because you just don’t know when they’re going to be born. It’s googling every possible outcome and panicking about their movements. It’s so many CTGs that you lose count and being injected with steroids to mature your babies lungs to give them the best chance at living. It’s about wondering if they’re going to survive.
Luckily, with today’s science and second to none medical care the success rate for IUGR babies is incredibly high and many of these babies are born with no lasting consequences whatsoever.
Every scan I went to, which ended up being close to 20, there was always the thought at the back of your mind that this could be the last scan and they could be sending you to be induced later that day if baby hadn’t grown or the fluid levels or cord flow were off.
Lily Rose was born on the 21st January 2016 at 17:29 at 38+2 weighing 5lbs 7.5oz with an Apgar of 9. She had her blood sugar checked as standard for low birth weight babies and despite her first outfit including a dolls cardigan, she needed no neonatal care and we were home 12 hours later. She did end up suffering with prolonged jaundice but other than that she was perfect and STRONG. She was holding her head up at 2 weeks and was walking by 9 months despite being the size of a 6 month old and is so far considered advanced with her fine and gross motor skills. Other things she hasn’t progressed much with especially her speech so we are waiting on another hearing test and an appointment with a speech and language therapist but aside from that she is meeting all of her milestones and doing everything she should be.