Premie & Proud

I was born four weeks early. As with many premature babies, no one then knew why I jumped the gun (probably the one and only time I did not have my typical “sticky feet,” hanging back on the blocks of a start.)

My mom did have strep throat when delivering me (she’s still super annoyed that she wasn’t allowed to see me for days while contagious). It’s unlikely that strep was the trigger though. In hindsight, it’s easy to identify some red flags that I wasn’t following protocol—I kicked constantly, my mother was ordered to bed rest the last trimester, and there was an incident of staving off an earlier delivery. Also, unlike while pregnant with my older sister (born to the day, as predicted!), my mother didn’t have any food cravings while carrying me.

In the era I was born, the common approach was that if you could get a premie to survive until their second birthday, they’d be good to go—no lingering issues despite the rocky start, thus no need to follow up.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “sort of interesting, but how does this relate to her blog topics of health and swimming?” Well, according to the longitudinal studies now being published, a premature birth may impact lifetime wellness, and for me, my swimming.

Part of the problem cited in longitudinal studies today? Premies don’t get to “finish” in the uterus. I definitely feel lucky to fall on the safer side of the weekly development chart, away from “severe” prematurity by two weeks (there’s a high correlation between six weeks premature and very profound issues such as cystic fibrosis).

But that last month or so in the womb is critical for lung and immune building. Missing out on those last four weeks certainly helps explain the bane of my existence—allergies and asthma.

Being “sensitive” to a ton of stuff means my immune system kicks up a fuss a lot, I’m more susceptible to colds and viruses, and I struggle to shake off bugs. I’ve spent a lot of time being sick, missing school, work, and pool time. And if it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that good ol’ “consistency” can carry you a long way in things such as school, work, and sports.

Current longitudinal studies back me up, highlighting how premies, as compared to their peers, are less social (much lower index of marrying and/or having children), and don’t make as much money.

Yet, despite a lifetime of hearing myself described as “puny” and “prone to catching anything that’s going around,” I am proud to be premie. For one thing, those same longitudinal studies show that premies are much more “determined” than their peers. (We have to be!) And, since my parents enrolled me in my very first swim class in hope of the sport strengthening me, my premie-ness gave me my lifelong love of swimming. Not a bad trade off in my mind!

Next week: What I Love/Hate about Swim Meets

Next week: What I Love/Hate about Swim Meets

Next week: What I Love/Hate about Sw

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Premie & Proud

2 thoughts on “Premie & Proud

  1. Ransom(From GWHS/Swim Dogs) says:

    Hey Rebecca! Any resources on getting just general health stuff for being premie? Like does that make sense. I was born 10 weeks before my due date and I’ve had terrible bouts of nigh-continuous colds over the last winter and already have my first of the season. I’d like to hear any tips you might explicitly have for other premies!

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    1. Hi Ransom! It’d be my pleasure to share resources with a fellow premie. First thing: Assess your gut health. If your gut is healthy, your overall health improves. Ever done a food log? If not, try it for a month (record everything you eat, when, how you feel after.) This’ll help you ID trends (foods your body loves, foods it doesn’t). Then tinker with eliminating ones that seem not to agree. Also, do you take probiotics daily? If not, look into those (available everywhere, but get good quality brand). Second: Reduce inflammation, which is the root of most disease. There are many ways — take fish oil daily, reduce foods that produce inflammation response (some are obvious — junk food, stuff with high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, etc. But you may have some that your body reacts to, you can easily get tested for foods if you suspect that it the case. Also, premies and dairy in general don’t mix well.) Reduce stress (yep, it causes inflammation) — I’m terrible at this one but yoga, mediation, deep breathing all go a long way! And clean up your air/products (get down to all-natural-everything if you can — cleaning supplies, personal products, etc.) For example, I clean with vinegar, baking soda, etc. to reduce my exposure to chemicals. (ask if you want more across the board on what I do here.) High intensity exercise for long durations can also trigger the inflammation response — are you still swimming a ton? If so, part two will be how to deal with that — premie swimmers need to do a little extra daily to recover. Hope that’s a good start — feel free to ask follow up questions and for sure let me know how you proceed with this tips above — would love feedback! Also, let me know if you want my go-to list of aids for when sick…again, premies need to work at it a bit more than our peers….sigh…

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