Every expectant parent hopes for a healthy baby at the end of their pregnancy, but for a growing number of women in South Dakota that pregnancy ends too soon.
It's been just two weeks since Emily Sovell gave birth to her twin daughters and already she's gotten used to the routine of doctor's rounds. You see, Josie and Justice were born two months early. Sovell is now out of the hospital, but her two daughters aren't.
"Although I live four hours away, I'm not going anywhere until they go home with me," Sovell said.
Not wanting to risk an infection, Sovell prefers to show off her babies in pictures, in order to protect them from germs. Josie was born first, weighing just three pounds 11 ounces. Justice weighed just one ounce more.
"You have a feeling of guilt. You wonder, 'Did I do something wrong? Is there something I could have done differently?' I had followed the doctor's instructions to a ‘T’ on what to eat, what to drink, when to rest," Sovell said.
And while doctors aren't always able to find out why a pregnancy ends in a preterm birth, in South Dakota they are seeing more of them.
"We are getting better at fertility treatments. That means that moms who were considered infertile before are now able to carry pregnancies, but the problem is some of them have chronic illnesses, and they can't carry the pregnancy all the way," Avera Neonatologist Dr. Fernando Soares said.
More women are also waiting to have babies later in life, which can complicate a pregnancy. And unlike Sovell, some moms' bad habits during the pregnancy, such as smoking or drinking alcohol, may also be a factor.
While there has been an increase in the number of low-birth-weight babies born in South Dakota, there's also been an increase in technology to help those babies survive.
"Twenty years from now we probably wouldn't have been talking about saving infants of a pound or a pound and a half," Soares said.
Sovell is thankful for that technology because her daughters are getting stronger every day. And being a mom is even more picture-perfect than she imagined.
"To be a mom and a first-time mom, as hard as it was to know they were small and premature, just to be a mom is an awesome experience," Sovell said.
Low birth weight babies often have respiratory problems, and they can also struggle to maintain their body temperature. That's why low birth weight babies, like Josie and Justice, are hospitalized so doctors carefully monitor their growth.