“How old is your little girl?” Simple question, right? Usually, yes. But not when you’re talking about a preemie.
“She’s 18 months corrected,” I answer. Pause. Will this mum know what that means? Should I explain or will that sound patronising? Deep breath. “She was born 15 weeks early,” I venture falteringly. Look of shock and disbelief followed by questions I’d rather not answer in the middle of a busy playgroup. I make a mental note not to mention the term ‘corrected’ next time.
“Ah, she’s cute, how old is she?”
Ok so just give a normal answer this time. “She’s 18 months.” “Oh really, so she’s an October birthday just like my Isla then?” Agh, now what do I say? “Well no, she’s actually a June birthday… She was born very early.” Look of shock and disbelief followed by questions I’d rather not answer in the park. Or anywhere.
How old is your little one?
Take 59. Let’s try something different. “She’s coming up for 2.” Looks of confusion, and then an awkward, “Oh wow, she’s so teeny tiny for her age!” To be honest I don’t blame the woman – my daughter barely looks like she’s turned 1 let alone nearly turning 2. I feel the need to offer an explanation which takes the conversation down the same old route.
Before giving birth to my little girl after just 24 weeks of pregnancy I had never come across the concept of ‘corrected age’. ‘Corrected age’ or ‘adjusted age’ is a preemie’s chronological age minus the number of weeks or months he or she was born early. So in my daughter’s case, I need to subtract 3 and a half months from her chronological age of 22 months, meaning she’s 18 and a half months corrected.
Corrected age can be helpful if you’re trying to work out whether your preemie is hitting their development milestones. For example, even though your baby is 6 months old chronologically, you wouldn’t expect them to be sitting up if they’d been born 3 months early, because that would give them a corrected age of just 3 months and very few 3 month olds can sit unaided.
But talking about corrected age can also prompt some fairly awkward or difficult conversations that you’d rather not have with all and sundry about the birth of your preemie!
There isn’t a set time when you should stop correcting a preemie’s age. But most health professionals recommend correcting until at least the age of 2 or 3, and perhaps longer for babies like mine who were born extremely preterm. So I look forward to a few more years of tricky exchanges about my daughter’s age!
Have you come across the concept of corrected age before? Do you end up having awkward conversations about the age of your preemie? Or have you found a way to avoid them?