When she was born in July after 22 weeks gestation, she weighed 1 pound, 2 ounces. Her chances of survival were less than 30%.

But the infant named Winner beat the odds and on March 14, she headed home from Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital weighing 13 pounds, 5 ounces.

Born after 22 weeks of gestation and weighing just over 1 pound at birth, an 8-month-old girl named Winner was released from Maine Medical Center on March 14. The doctor who cared for the girl said he believed she is the most premature baby to survive in Maine. Photo courtesy of Maine Medical Center

She is likely the most premature baby ever to survive in Maine, hospital officials said Monday.

Babies born earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered premature and babies born 39 weeks or later are considered full-term, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

At 22 weeks, they have underdeveloped organs and have difficulty surviving outside the womb, but hospitals have improved care for premature babies, and survival rates have improved as well.

“Patients born that young are at the limits of survivability, but we have learned so much about how to care for them, and we have an incredible team of providers, and a wonderful, attentive family,” said Dr. Alan Picarillo, medical director of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital is located at Maine Medical Center in Portland.


The girl’s family lives in Greater Portland and was willing to share the news about Winner, but declined interviews or to be identified, said Caroline Cornish, hospital spokeswoman.

Picarillo said he checked with Maine Medical Center and Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor to see if any other baby born that prematurely had survived and didn’t find records of any. And because care for premature babies continues to improve, he believes Winner is the earliest-born baby in Maine to survive.

The two hospitals take the most complex premature baby cases in Maine, and Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital is the only Level 4 NICU in Northern New England. A Level 4 NICU provides the highest level of care for babies who need intensive care.

A 2022 Stanford University study analyzed 10,877 premature births between 2013 and 2018, and discovered improved survival rates for babies born between 22 and 28 weeks. Overall, 78% of babies born prematurely survived, including 28% born at 22 weeks.

“In the mid-1980s, babies born at 500 grams (about 1.1 pounds) and 25 weeks didn’t survive. It just didn’t happen. Now we see the borderline of viability dropping to 22 weeks,” said Dr. Krisa Van Meurs, a Stanford neonatologist and co-author of the study, in a news release. “With all of these new treatment strategies we’ve developed, we’ve seen an amazing impact.”

Picarillo said among the advancements that have helped premature babies survive is preventing hospital-acquired infections, which can devastate infants; and improved, gentler techniques for using ventilators, which has reduced damage to the lungs. Also, parents are now involved in caring for their babies in the NICU, and the skin-to-skin contact helps the baby bond with the parents.

“Families are now part of the care team, and that’s changed from 20 years ago,” Picarillo said. “Parents used to be viewed through the lens of visitors to the NICU, and now they are integrated into the care team.”

Picarillo said Winner will need to be closely monitored, but the fact that she is well enough to be home is a great sign for her long-term prognosis.

“All extremely premature babies can face potential challenges, and the care of the baby doesn’t end when they are discharged from the NICU,” Picarillo said.

Comments are not available on this story.