The bonsai baby weighed only 9.45 ounces when he was born through an emergency C-section at 24 weeks.
Despite all our advances in medical care, an estimated 15 million babies across the world are born prematurely. On average, that means about one in ten newborns are premature. Of these babies born prematurely, one million babies die due to complications during premature birth. If they do survive, they are likely to experience a lifetime of physical or mental disability, including visual or aural impairment and learning disabilities. Though the odds are slim, some premature babies do not face these challenges. Such is the case with a miracle baby born prematurely in the city of Tokyo in Japan, where babies are rarely ever born preterm. The baby boy has now set a world record, as he is considered to be the world's tiniest baby to ever be born.
The newborn was delivered through an emergency Cesarian section as he stopped gaining weight when his mother was 24 weeks pregnant. At 24 weeks, a baby should ideally weigh 1.32 pounds and measure 11.81 inches, increasing ever so slightly every week. Because it appeared that the tiny baby had ceased to grow further, doctors believed the best approach to take would be a premature birth rather than carrying the pregnancy to term, which would have put both baby and mother at risk.
The emergency C-section was carried out in August 2018 by expert doctors at Keio University Hospital in Tokyo. At birth, the baby weighed 9.45 ounces, only a little bit more than the average grapefruit. He could also fit in the palms of an adult. The newborn was immediately admitted to the intensive care unit, where he was placed under the care of Dr. Takeshi Arimitsu. Dr. Arimitsu was incredibly attentive during the baby's time there. He spent a total of five months at the hospital hooked up to machines.
The baby boy required a ventilator for respiratory support as his lungs needed a little extra help and an umbilical catheter for infusion therapy. This form of therapy is common and utilized to treat a variety of medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia, neuropathy (including diabetic neuropathy), and pain related to stroke or spinal injuries. It is, however, rare to treat a baby in this manner. Nonetheless, the treatment was successful and the newborn was able to leave the care unit on February 20.
When the baby was discharged, he weighed 7.1 pounds, gaining about six and a half pounds while in the neonatal care unit under Dr. Arimitsu's care. This is an extremely rare case that has never been seen before, especially in the country of Japan. According to the doctor, the rate of infants' low birthweight "is almost 10%" in the island nation, making it one of the top ten countries with the lowest preterm birth rates in the world. Malawi currently has the highest preterm birth rate at 18.1 preterm births per 100 births.
This bonsai baby's weight surpasses the previous world record for lowest weight in a newborn. The record was held by a German boy weighing 9.67 ounces. He was born almost a decade ago, in 2009. The smallest girl, on the other hand, was born in 2015, also in Germany, and clocked in at 8.89 ounces. Since 1936, however, there have been only 23 babies who have survived preterm birth after weighing under 10.58 ounces across the world. 19 of these babies were girls.
Due to the success of the baby boy's treatment, Dr. Amiritsu stated, "There is a possibility that babies will be able to leave the hospital in good health, even though they are born small." There are numerous factors that contribute to a premature baby's ability to beat the odds and survive. The week-by-week differences make a major impact especially; around 50 to 60 percent of babies born at 24 weeks tend to survive, whereas the survival rate for babies born at 22 or 23 weeks is much lower.
According to Helen Mactier, a consultant neonatologist in Glasgow, Scotland, "Survival is dictated by a number of factors but probably the most important is gestational age. But survival is also dictated by the health of the mother and the complications of pregnancy. It’s very difficult to see a baby surviving before 22 weeks as there are physiological issues which would make that very difficult." Despite all the challenges, it is heartwarming to know that the baby boy is now happy and healthy. His mother stated, "I can only say I’m happy that he has grown this big because honestly, I wasn’t sure he could survive."