Preterm but Not Predetermined: The Challenges, Repercussions, and Victories of Extremely Preterm Birth


  • Samantha Perry Tulane University


Kelley Benham gave birth to her daughter only 23 weeks and 6 days into her pregnancy, barely on the cusp of viability. As a result of this extremely preterm birth, Kelley and Tom’s daughter was statistically unlikely to survive, especially without disability. While preterm birth is an issue facing much of the world, the United States has a disproportionate amount of preterm births, which drives up health care costs in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, as well as creates the potential for many children to be disabled. Through utilizing Kelley and Tom’s memoir, World Health Organization policies and public health solutions, scientific research papers, and scientific literature about preterm birth, this case study examines preterm birth in the context of its effect on development of the child, the efficacy of Neonatal Intensive Care Units and other systems set in place to assist preterm babies, laws on children and medicine, who should bear the responsibility of making decisions for the child, and navigating whether a chance at life outweighs all of the costs. Undergoing countless treatments and procedures, Kelley and Tom, with the help of the doctors, decided to continue with interventions, grappling with the question of whether the treatments were worth it. Throughout this painful and heart-wrenching journey, Kelley demonstrates resilience, strength, unrelenting love, and what it means to be a mother, even when all of the odds are against her.


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