Baby born at just 21 weeks ‘youngest to survive so far’

A baby girl born at just 21 weeks and four days is now a flourishing toddler, possibly making her the youngest ever surviving premature baby.

At the birth, the baby’s mother Courtney Stensrud asked the specialist doctor to attempt resuscitation after a medical emergency brought on labour at a Texas hospital.

Now Courtney says her daughter is healthy, happy and keeping up with other children her age at preschool. She decided to share her story to help other mums in the same situation.


Courtney and her husband had their daughter at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio at just 21 weeks and four days, with neonatologist Dr Kaashif Ahmad warning about the very low likelihood of survival.

But Courtney said despite this, she asked: “Will you try?”

In her school, she is keeping up with all the other 3-year-olds.

Dr Ahmad explained: “So we placed her under an overhead warmer, we listened, and we heard her heart rate, which we were not necessarily expecting”.

“We immediately placed a breathing tube in her airway. We started giving her oxygen, and really pretty quickly, her heart rate began to rise. She very slowly changed colors from blue to pink, and she actually began to move and began to start breathing within a few minutes.”

No delayed development

Dr Ahmad has now written a paper on the case which says she “may be the most premature known survivor to date”.

At two years of age, the little girl was showing no signs of delayed development and can see and hear as normal.

“If you didn’t know that she was so preemie, you would think she’s a normal 3-year-old,” Courtney said.

“In her school, she is keeping up with all the other 3-year-olds. She loves playing with other kids. She loves everything I think a normal 3-year-old likes.”

Sustained improvement

Dr Ahmad noted that one watershed moment in caring for premature babies was after US President John F Kennedy lost a child at 34 weeks.

“Since that time,” Dr Ahmad said, “we’ve had sustained improvements in care that have pushed the boundaries of how premature a baby can be born and not only survive but have a positive developmental outcome.”

In the UK, doctors at one hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne have seen survival rates for 23 week old babies almost triple from 25 per cent in 2006 to between 60 and 70 per cent now.

It is currently legal in Great Britain to abort children up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if it is believed that the baby will be born with a disability.

Related Resources