Cleveland Cavaliers star J.R. Smith made an important announcement on social media recently: His wife, Jewel Harris, gave birth to their third daughter five months before her due date.
“We’ve got very important news,” Smith said in a Twitter video posted via Uninterrupted, a multimedia website created by his teammate LeBron James.
“We decided to share with the world what’s been going on with our family the past five days,” Harris said, while obviously struggling not to cry. “We know a lot of you guys congratulated us on the expectancy of our little baby girl, but we had her five months early. She’s five days old today, and her name is Dakota and she weighs one pound.”
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) January 7, 2017
Smith revealed in October that the couple was expecting their third child after he announced that he was extending his contract with the Cavaliers. “One more surprise, we’re having another baby,” he said in an Uninterrupted video at the time.
Harris says that she knows they aren’t the only family who has been through this and who will go through something like this in the future. “That’s why we decided to share what we’re going through with you guys,” she said. “Please keep us in your prayers, and we’ll do the same for everyone else.”
Heather Frey, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Beauty that gestational weeks matter more than months when it comes to a premature baby’s outcome. “Five months could mean 20 weeks, or it could be 23 or 24 weeks old — those are the babies that do survive,” she says.
However, Frey says babies born this prematurely face “extensive” challenges. “Although they may survive, the mortality rate is still very high,” she says. “Even if they do survive, babies born at 23 or 24 weeks will usually have some major complication.” These can include long-term complications such as problems with vision or hearing, and neurodevelopmental issues such as cerebral palsy. “Lung development is a really important issue for these babies,” she says. “It’s critical, because if they don’t have proper lung development, they may not survive.”
Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, an ob-gyn at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, tells Yahoo Beauty that babies born this early “need a lot of support.” “They’re put in a warmer, have an IV, and things that help them breathe,” she says. “The first struggle is just to be alive.” Babies born at 23 or 24 weeks usually are born early for a reason, such as an infection that will need to be treated. They also tend to struggle with basic functions such as blood pressure regulation and warming themselves, she says.
Frey says premature babies are typically kept in the hospital until close to when they were originally due, but they also have to reach a few milestones, such as breathing on their own and maintaining their weight.
While babies born at 23 or 24 weeks may not survive, a small percentage of those who do have no impairments, Frey says. “The fact that more babies are surviving at an earlier gestational age of birth is a real testament of work of our neonatology colleagues and advances we have made in medicine,” she says.