In developed countries where there is a NICU with ventilators and surfactant, super-specialists, and all sorts of medical technology, a baby who is born at 24 weeks gestation or about 500 grams is considered viable.
Our nursery doesn't have much in the way of fancy equipment. It is a small, toasty room with one working warmer, a few baby beds, an oxygen concentrator, some IV tubing, NG tubes, one nurse or CHW or student, and lots of mamas taking care of their little ones. Our 1.5+ kg babies (about 32 weeks gestation) have a pretty good chance of making it. Get below 1.2 kg and the chances decrease rather quickly. My smallest that has survived was 1 kg. Baby of Diana!
Because of all the high risk OB over the last few weeks, we have babies that fit into every one of those weight categories described above--low, very low, and even extremely low.
Baby of Agnes (on the left with mom) was one of twins. Mom delivered at home, as many PNG mothers do. The babies were brought to the hospital after a couple of days because they weren't feeding well. Both were small (1.3 kg) and sick with infection, so they were admitted to the nursery for antibiotics. The first twin died shortly after admission. The second one recovered from sepsis and has done really well... growing like a weed!
Serah (on the right with her baby) was admitted to the hospital at 32-33 weeks with PPROM. Basically, her water broke too early. After a couple of days on antibiotics and steroids, Serah went into labor. The baby was delivered by c-section for breech presentation. He weighed a whoppin' 1.7 kg!!!
Baby of Elis is another one who was born at home. She was about 1.3 kg when she was brought to the hospital. She has had a bit of a tougher course, still requiring oxygen and NG feeds.
Margaret was about 6 months pregnant when she started bleeding. She came into the labor ward and was admitted for observation. Several days later, she began to bleed so heavily that she passed out in a pool of her own blood. I diagnosed her with a placental abruption. The placenta was prematurely separating from the wall of the uterus. We gave Margaret IV fluids and a blood transfusion to stabilize her condition. She went into labor and delivered a 600 gram baby. I had absolutely no hope that this little one would live more than a few minutes. I was surprised to find that she was still alive several hours later. Baby of Margaret was moved into the nursery where we cared for her until she was transferred to heaven--four days later. I count every one of those days as a miracle!
When low birth weight babies grow to about 2.4 kg, they are discharged from the hospital. I generally have them follow up with me a time or two to make sure that they are gaining weight. After that they they go to the Maternal Child Health clinic for routine checks and immunizations. I don't usually see them again unless they are sick. This past week I saw one of "my babies" in the outpatient department. Baby of Julie was about 1.8 kg when she was born. Now she is almost 3 years old!!! Her name is Cinderella :). What a sweet encouragement after a week of craziness.
"So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
~ 1 Corinthians 3:7