Author Topic: Premature birth in 1876  (Read 4186 times)

Offline Ayashi

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Premature birth in 1876
« on: Thursday 12 January 12 17:10 GMT (UK) »
My great grand uncle, bless his little heart, died aged 2 hours as the result of a premature birth.

I was wondering if anyone knows anything about pre-term pregnancy in times gone by... like, at what duration of pregnancy might a mother not have had an issue with the child being early? (I'm sure a couple of weeks wouldn't have made a massive difference, right? But I know too early gives problems with breathing and suchlike...) Did they have any capability at all to deal with premature births?

Evidently he was too early to survive, rather than succumbing to infection or other more "long term" causes of death for a premature baby...

Any thoughts? Thanks.

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Offline bykerlads

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #1 on: Saturday 14 January 12 17:54 GMT (UK) »
I was once told that the milk produced by the mother of a premature baby is different from the mother's milk for a full-term baby- presumably Nature's way of trying to help the vulnerable child.
Don't know if it's true but it would make some sense.

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Offline jacksgranny

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 17 January 12 22:52 GMT (UK) »
In 1876 there would not have been anything that could be done for a baby born too early, or with any significant problem.  They either survived or they didn't, and the mother and her female supporters just did their best.  While medical care existed, there was very little that was available at that time for this problem.  According to my mother, who is 90 next month, it was accepted that sometimes babies did not survive when she was a girl.   :'(

When I started my midwifery training in 1976, it was quite a big deal if a baby was born at 36 weeks, a real big deal if they were born at 32 weeks, and not very likely to survive with any quality of life if born at 28 weeks.  If they did so, they became locally famous for a while.  I can recall only one or two from that period where I worked.  At that time, the viability age was 28 weeks.

Nowadays, healthy babies born at 36 weeks get the same care and have the same outcomes as babies born at full term.  Those born at 32 weeks are expected to do well, as are many born at 28 weeks.  It would depend upon whether there were any additional problems apart from being 'undercooked'.  The viability age has been reduced to 24 weeks, although babies born at this stage might be expected to have some long-term health problems.

So, to make a stab at answering your question, I would suggest that a baby born more than 4 weeks early in 1876 might not do too well.   

I hope that is helpful?   :-\   :)

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Offline bykerlads

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 18 January 12 09:26 GMT (UK) »
Whilst trawling micro-fiche of local parish records for burials through the 1800's, I've often noticed entries for infants a few days old who were "twin son/daughtr of..."- I assume they arrived prematurely and did not survive. Though usually both babies died, sometimes only one is recorded so maybe the other was luckier and did, or perhaps  the care needed to ensure survival ( feeding tiny amounts at very short intervals + constant warmth being kept at all times next to the mother's skin) was too much to dedicate to 2 babies at the same time.
I'd like to think that the parents and supporters made great efforts to keep premmies alive but I have to wonder if in those days people had more the habit of having to take a pragmatic decision about viability.
Not a comfortable thought but those were hard times.

Offline Nick29

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday 18 January 12 09:56 GMT (UK) »
Birth was a very risky business for both mother and child in those days.  Even if the child went full term.
RIP 1949-10th January 2013

Best Wishes,  Nick.

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Offline Ayashi

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday 18 January 12 16:16 GMT (UK) »
Thanks all :) I just wondered... very tragic, was only her second baby as well. I'm glad I got to know he existed and he's safe on my family tree now, so hopefully he won't be forgotten again.

Offline Nick29

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #6 on: Thursday 19 January 12 10:45 GMT (UK) »
I think unfortunately there are too many of these forgotten little mites.  I only discovered that my grandmother had twin brothers when the family bible came to light, and her mother had written all the children's names in it.  The twins were her mother's first-born, so I'm not sure if even my grandmother knew of them.
RIP 1949-10th January 2013

Best Wishes,  Nick.

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Offline bykerlads

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #7 on: Thursday 19 January 12 13:24 GMT (UK) »
The 1911 census proved very enlightening as regards lost babies and children because it shows how many children a woman gave birth to and how many were still alive in 1911.
I'd wondered at the discrepancy between the 10 children I had found that my grtgrandparents had and the 14 children that I recalled my grandad talking about.( him + sibs).
The census showed how many had not survived so I then searched parish registers for burials and found them all except one . It was fairly easy to know which year to look in for each one because she produced babies at 12-18 month intervals- so I just looked for the "gaps".
Another point: does anyone find what I have found- that not infrequently the first-born dies in infancy? ( during 1800's) -subsequent babies seem to do better.

Offline Ayashi

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Re: Premature birth in 1876
« Reply #8 on: Thursday 19 January 12 17:19 GMT (UK) »
I had my suspicions, gap wise, since there was a seven year gap between the last two children. There was another child who died who was born just before the last one, making it still a six year gap, presumably there were miscarriages or stillbirths in that time. I guess I'll never know anything more about it.

She had William 1875, Thomas 1876 and Thomas 1877, so these ones didn't hang around at the start!