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Premature baby born three days before UK abortion limit, saved by cuddles from her mum

A family from Yorkshire helped to save the life of their daughter born before the abortion limit in the UK through her mother’s cuddles.

Elsie Dutton was born a few days before the abortion limit weighing only 1lb 2oz, slightly more than a tin of baked beans.

Sadly, Elsie’s twin, Dotty, died shortly before she was born and doctors were concerned that Elsie might die too. The baby was taken straight to an incubator where her mother, Amy, was unable to hold her for a whole month.

Elsie spent another four months in the hospital during which her mother literally cuddled her. Better known as kangaroo care, cuddles with parents have been proven to help premature babies survive.

Studies have shown regular skin-to-skin contact between babies and adults helps stabilise babies heart rates, improve their breathing and weight gain, helping them grow stronger.

Cuddles can make a “huge difference for premature babies like Elsie”

Dr Sijo Francis, St George’s clinical director of children’s services where Elsie was born, said kangaroo care had made a huge difference for premature babies like Elsie.    

“When babies like Elsie are born prematurely, clinical intervention is key but parent’s involvement also has a hugely positive effect,” he said.

“When mothers hold their babies in their arms for a long time, as they do with kangaroo care, stress for both mother and baby is reduced and we see improved short- and long-term outcomes.”

Because she was born so prematurely, her mum and dad, Amy and Scott, had to wait five months to bring their newborn baby Elsie back to their home in Barnsley, South Yorks.

Mrs Dutton, 33, said: “It’s something that was good for me and for her because it helps bring my stress down being able to hold her. I held her for about 30 seconds when she [was] born and then she went straight in the incubator for one month.”

“Having to wait so long to hold her was really difficult, so when I finally did it meant so much. It’s crazy to think that me cuddling her was having such an impact, it saved her life.”

Now back home with the family, Elsie is now getting cuddles from her father Scott and seven-year-old brother Charlie too.

“It’s so surreal to hold your baby and think about how you could have lost her, and having her home after all that uncertainty was just bliss,” Elsie’s mum said.

“Losing Dotty was really difficult”

Amy Dutton was pregnant with twins but suffered twin to twin transfusion syndrome, where the blood flow to one of the babies is restricted. Doctors intervened and though they were initially optimistic about their intervention, Mrs Dutton started to experience complications and shortly before she went into labour, baby Dotty died.

Mrs Dutton described how losing her baby before 24 weeks was especially hard because Dotty’s death is classed as a miscarriage, rather than a still birth. Dotty was not legally recognised as a person.

Mrs Dutton said: “Losing Dotty was really difficult, because it was before 24 weeks I was never able to register her as a stillborn, she was classed as a miscarriage.That meant I wasn’t able to put on Elsie’s birth certificate that she was a twin either.”

“Being able to have that on the paperwork would have given me some closure after going through something so difficult.”

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: “The outcomes for extremely premature babies are improving all the time, and it’s amazing how something as simple as cuddles makes such a big difference.”

“It is tragic that Dotty’s death is not legally recognised. To register Dotty’s death would be to admit that she was a person and her life mattered, but if the law did that, it would raise obvious questions about the abortion law and why abortion is permitted in the first place.”

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.