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Premature Birth Drama

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A baby is born long before the due date and, as a result, has to be hospitalized since he or she can't survive otherwise.

In real life, this can happen for any number of reasons as entire wards have to be set up to ensure that the baby survives until it's developed enough to survive on its own. Premature babies also often suffer issues due to the incomplete development of their body.

There are three categories for preterm birth, which present different difficulties depending on how early the baby is born:

  1. Extremely preterm (before 28 weeks). These babies have the greatest amount of problems, and are often kept in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for several months, as they are often severely underweight, sometimes under one pound; have delicate skin, and may have problems with sight if they were born before 27 weeks.
  2. Very preterm (between 28 and 32 weeks). These babies have a moderate amount of problems and have moderate stays in the NICU, due to being underweight, having weak immune systems, and having trouble with breastfeeding.
  3. Moderate to late preterm (between 32 and 37 weeks). These babies mostly have fewer problems than the others, and are likely to have short stays at NICU but still at risk for health issues, such as being underweight, problems with brain development, and an inability to breastfeed correctly.

In the most tragic cases, it can lead to parents Outliving One's Offspring. If the baby survives, it could still result in drama later on down the track: Babies that are preterm birth would be more likely to have health problems like hearing loss and learning disabilities later in life. It can also sometimes result in parents becoming overprotective of the child because they were so small and frail at birth (even if they're doing better now). Sometimes, siblings may feel jealous of them because they take up more time and attention (especially if the sibling is inadvertently neglected while the premature child is cared for).

Related to Maternity Crisis. Compare and contrast Convenient Miscarriage and Tragic Stillbirth.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: Guts and Casca's child is born long before Casca even looks pregnant due to her being raped by Griffith during the Eclipse. As a result, Guts is regularly visited by a deformed, one-eyed floating fetus which he tries to kill that eventually becomes a healthy-looking child.
  • Naruto: Gaara was born premature, although he grew up normal physically (mentally is another matter).

    Fan Works 
  • In An Acceptable Arrangement this is out of focus, but it's mentioned that besides dealing with Hou Yue's death in childbirth, the surviving members of the family have to deal with a premature and very weak Nie Huaisang, who was born almost two months early.
  • The Bob's Burgers fanfic Birth of a Legend is about Louise being born at thirty weeks after a near-miscarriage, ending up in the NICU and too sick to be held for weeks. She ends up being fed through a tube until her second birthday, which is one reason Bob values Thanksgiving so much — he felt awful Louise couldn't even eat on her first Thanksgivings. Linda seems to have severe PTSD from the birth, and when she finally brings herself to tell Louise, Louise feels bolder than ever after learning she was expected to be miscarried or at least permanently disabled (though she does seem to have stunted growth).
  • In the Steven Universe Human AU fanfic Do It For Him, Rose goes into labor with Steven three months earlier than expected. Unfortunately, she dies as a result, but Steven manages to hold on and is finally able to come home after three months of staying at the NICU.
  • In the Muppets fanfic The Great Desire, Gonzo and Camilla were once married, but are now divorced; it soon becomes evident that what caused the split was the loss of a child and that Janice blames herself for what happened. Flashbacks eventually reveal that Janice was their surrogate (their Interspecies Romance let them only conceive a child via surrogacy), but she was seriously injured in a boat accident, forcing their baby daughter Isabella to be born too early by emergency C-section, and Isabella died two weeks later. In the end, however, Gonzo and Camilla reconcile both with each other and with Janice, and in the epilogue, they have a new baby, Melanie.
  • The The Loud House fanfic Lucy's Birth has Lucy as a preemie. She had to stay in the hospital for quite a while, and it's implied that she almost died because she was named after one of the doctors who's said to have "saved" her. Her pale skin is explained as her being anemic, and she has chronic bloodshot eyesnote , both of which are likely a direct result of her premature birth.
  • The Steven Universe Human AU fanfic Too Soon sees Winona Damon give birth to her third daughter Piper four months early. While it is touch and go for a while, Piper ultimately pulls through and is able to go home.
  • In the NUMB3RS fanfic A Woman Waits for Me, Don and his wife, Anne (an original character), have their son, Mattie, two months early due to Anne having damage in her uterus. While it is touch and go for a while, their son ultimately pulls through and is able to go home a couple months later.

    Films — Animation 
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: Hiccup's mother, Valka, reveals that he was "born early into this world", and she feared that he wouldn't survive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2013 movie Hours tells the efforts of a father whose wife suffered Death by Childbirth to keep his prematurely born daughter alive... with failing equipment... during Hurricane Katrina.
  • Tony from Journey of the Heart was born so premature that he weighed less than two pounds. He was supplied with large amounts of oxygen, which saved his life but also caused his retinas to detach. Later he was diagnosed with autism, which doctors believe is because of the oxygen.
  • Star Trek (2009): In the Prime timeline, James T. Kirk was born on March 22, 2233. Thanks to Nero and the Narada's incursion into the 23rd century, this timeline's Kirk was born approximately 2 months early, as Nero's attack means that Kirk's mother, Winona, has to deliver him on her evacuation shuttle while Kirk's father, George, holds off the Narada aboard the USS Kelvin.

  • Anne of Green Gables: In Anne's House of Dreams, Anne and Gilbert's blissful life as newlyweds is shattered when their first child, Joyce, is born too early in a time before modern medicine. She lives less than a day, and it has a sobering effect on the narrative. It's implied Anne and Gilbert carry this with them the rest of their lives.
  • In A Cry in the Night, Jenny goes into labor early and gives birth to a small, sickly baby boy. She devotes herself to caring for him until he can have surgery to help his breathing; consequently, she doesn't spend as much time with her older children or her husband, which makes the latter jealous. The baby dies just eight weeks later, leaving Jenny devastated, though her husband is strangely unemotional, stating that their son is unlikely to have survived anyway. And then people start questioning if it was a natural death...
  • Earth's Children: In The Mammoth Hunters, despite attempts to stop her labor, Fralie's daughter Bectie is born a month earlier than expected; Fralie herself is in poor health and many people don't know if the baby will live, especially because in this time period (the Ice Age) there is little that even experienced healers can do to help babies born so soon. Luckily, Bectie is born alive and reasonably healthy despite being so small, with Ayla giving her parents and grandmother advice on how to care for her. Bectie soon puts on weight and begins to thrive, much to everyone's relief.
  • Molly from I Think I Love You was born at twenty-nine weeks and spent about four months in the neonatal care unit. She needed steroid injections to make her lungs grow faster.
  • In the 1997 children's book The Uncivil War, the protagonist Asa was born eight weeks early. Her fragile condition early in life led to her mother being overprotective of her to the point of overfeeding her and giving Asa some Weight Woes. Later, Asa's little brother is born nine weeks early, though Asa states in her inner narration that she's not going to let what happened to her happen to him.
  • In Warrior Cats, this occasionally happens. For instance, in Moth Flight's Vision, Juniper Branch's kits come early and Moth Flight has to use her newly learned healing abilities to help save the mother and kits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Barrier: Luis' son Iván is revealed to have been born a month early in a flash-back. While this seems to have had no visible impact on Iván's health, Luis had to cut short a fishing trip he had taken because he thought the birth was still a month away.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Sharon Agathon's placenta detaches a month before her due date forcing Doc Cottle to intervene to save her and baby Hera. The child survives, but President Roslin conspires with Cottle to use complications from the early delivery as a cover story for taking the baby and having her secretly adopted for security reasons. Sharon and Helo are left believing their baby died until well into the next season when the truth finally comes out.
  • Boy Meets World: In the episode "My Baby Valentine" Joshua Matthews is born prematurely with respiratory issues and the next episode "Resurrection" deals with his survival.
  • Charmed (1998): Piper's first pregnancy ends with her going into labor six weeks early, something her doctor had warned her might happen due to her high blood pressure. To make matters worse, it happens when all of magic is deactivated and she's being held prisoner by demons. Piper may be predisposed to early births in general, since Chris also came early, albeit to a less severe degree. The comics jump straight to Melinda's toddlerhood, so it's not known if Piper went three-for-three on early births.
  • House of the Dragon: In "The Black Queen" Rhaenyra goes into premature labor from the dual shock of her father's death and her half-brother usurping her throne. The baby is born dead, and Rhaenyra mourns it throughout the episode.
  • Lost: John Locke was born three months early after his mother was hit by a car triggering an early delivery. He had to spend a long time in an incubator and fought off multiple infections that could have killed him. The nurses caring for him call him a "miracle" for surviving. This helps to establish that Locke was always a Determinator who wanted to survive.
  • Roseanne: In the last season of the show, Darlene goes into labor extremely early. After she's taken to the hospital, Roseanne, who won a huge lottery jackpot earlier in the season, declares that she "wants the best doctor on the goddamn planet" and has obstetricians literally flown in from across the globe to help. When even they tell her that there's not much they can do, she protests that she'll pay for anything and everything they need, but is forced to learn that there are some problems all the money in the world can't fix. Instead, the Conner women (Bev, Roseanne, Jackie, Becky, and Darlene) gather around the baby, hold her one by one, and promise that they will never let her go, while Dan does his best to offer wisdom to a frantic David. It's worth noting that the doctors warn the group that taking the child out of her incubator for even a moment is an incredible risk, so the scene is even more of a Tear Jerker. The baby, who Darlene names "Harris Conner Healy" after the women in her family, ends up living, with the specialists outright declaring it a miracle. Particularly touching is the scene where each woman delivers a monologue to the child: Bev declares that she senses that the baby—her first great-grandchild—is incredibly strong and won't give up; Jackie tearfully says that Harris feels herself slipping away, they will catch her and bring her back; Darlene breaks down and pleads with the baby to stay with them; and Roseanne holds her tiny granddaughter in her arms and begs forgiveness:
    Roseanne: I wanna apologize to you. The only thing I have even thought about were ways to heal your body—'cause I know better. We're not bodies with souls. We are souls with bodies...
    • This becomes even scarier when it's revealed that the final season was all a fictionalized version of real events—the Conners didn't win the lottery, and Dan had died of a heart attack. But Harris's premature birth was the one thing that did happen, meaning that the family was forced to go through the terrifying ordeal without tons of money to help them or Dan for strength.
  • Supernanny: In "The Tsironis Family", Bob and Elizabeth reveal in the submission reel that their three-year-old twin boys, Teddy and Nicholas were born at 23 weeks gestation, and the doctors didn't think the twins had a good chance of survival. It's because Bob and Elizabeth are happy that Teddy and Nicholas are healthy now that they find it hard to discipline them for their bad behavior.
  • This Is Us: In season three, Kate gives birth to a son at 28 weeks and he has to be put in NICU for a while. The baby, named Jack after her father, later loses his sight at three months old.

    Web Comic 
  • I'm All Out of Health!: Ninenya's mother was so stressed from watching her family getting executed for treason that she gave birth to Ninenya early, causing Ninenya to be Delicate and Sickly for the first twenty years of her life.

    Western Animation 
  • Bluey: In "Early Baby", Bluey and her friends play a game based around this, with Indy (playing the role of the mother) taking cues from when her little sister was born premature. When the time comes for the "baby" to be put in ICU, Indy acts distraught, crying that she doesn't want to leave her. Amusingly, Bluey interprets the concept of an early baby as having been born a few hours earlier than anticipated, which Indy doesn't correct.
  • Plasmo: Coredor was born six weeks prematurely, forcing him to spend his earliest weeks alive in an aquatic humidity crib just so his lungs could properly develop. This caused him to have a fear of water (despite his species being amphibian in their genetic makeup) and also have claustrophobia, along with him feeling like he was never able to connect with his mother as well as he wanted to, due to the lack of physical connection.
  • Pound Puppies (2010): In "Pound Preemies", a pregnant dog gives birth early. The Pound Puppies attempt to bring her newborn pups to the vet, but lose them along the way, and scramble to recover them.
  • Rugrats (1991): The "Mother's Day" episode reveals via flashback that Tommy was born premature when he recounts his earliest memory of his mother by describing how he was in "a giant fish tank" (an incubator) and was scared until he saw Didi for the first time and she held his hand. Dil was also born prematurely, but not to a dangerous degree, which confirmed that Didi is predisposed to early births.

    Real Life 
  • Winston Churchill was born two months early after his mother "took a fall".
  • Stevie Wonder was born six weeks premature and, along with stunted growth of the blood vessels in his eyes and the ventilator making the problem worse, he became blind as a result.
  • Prior to the invention of the incubator, conventional wisdom was that babies born prematurely were all but lost causes due to their high mortality rate. Because of this, most hospitals thought investing in a device meant to save them would be an equally lost cause, so the primary promulgator of incubation technology, Dr. Martin Couney, instead set up shop as a Coney Island sideshow, charging the parents of the patients nothing while showcasing how effective his invention was.
  • Fiona the hippopotamus, the first Nile hippo imaged on ultrasound prenatally and the first born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 75 years, was born six weeks prematurely in January 2017 and had to be cared for with the assistance of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Happily, she survived and, within six months, had reached a healthy weight for her age.