A baby girl born just one week before the abortion deadline has become the world’s youngest to survive major abdominal surgery. 

Abiageal Peters, from Surrey, was born after just 23 weeks, weighing just a tiny 1.3lbs.

Having a ruptured intestine in three places, doctors were in a rush to operate on her to keep her alive.

Unable to open her eyes or make any noise, her mother, Louise, 32, was terrified that she wouldn’t survive. 

But when she was just six days old she defied the odds after the procedure proved to be a success. 

Mrs Peters, married to David, 43, said: ‘Our baby girl was a fighter. She truly is our little miracle.

‘She stayed in intensive care for a while and overcame many more hurdles, but she kept fighting and we are so pleased with how she is doing today.’

Abiageal Peters, from Surrey, was born prematurely after just 23 weeks, weighing just 1.3lbs

She added: ‘We agreed to the operation, despite the risks associated with it, as we knew she wouldn’t survive without it.

‘After she’d gone into theatre, Dave and I sat in a room for what was probably the longest three hours of our lives, waiting for the surgical team to tell us the outcome.

‘When the door opened and one of the surgeons came into the room, we just looked at his face without hearing the words and we knew – she was OK. He was smiling.’

Mrs Peters gave birth to Abiageal at just 23 weeks gestation at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey last October after going into premature labour.

But the mother, who already had one child, was quickly transferred to the neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital, Tooting.

The couple are baffled as to why Abiageal, who has an Irish name, was born prematurely as both Mrs Peters’ pregnancies had progressed with no problems. 

Having a ruptured intestine in three places, doctors were in a rush to operate on her to keep her alive. She had surgery when she was just six days old

They were able to spend a brief amount of time with her at the hospital after she was born and put on life support.

Doctors soon suspected there was a problem with her bowels as her stomach was turning black. They also feared her body was shutting down.

WHAT IS NEC?

Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious illness in which tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die.

This can lead to a hole developing which allows the contents of the intestine to leak into the abdomen.This can cause a very dangerous infection.

NEC is the most common surgical emergency in newborn babies and tends to affect more babies born prematurely than those born full-term.

In many cases, NEC can be treated without surgery, by resting the bowel by using intravenous feeding and treating any infection with antibiotics. 

During this period, the child will have a nasogastric tube passed through their nose to drain off the contents of their stomach.

They will also have a drip of fluids and medicines.

However, the child will need an operation if they develop a hole in their bowel or do not respond to the treatment above. 

The operation is carried out under a general anaesthetic and can last between 30 minutes and four hours, depending on the severity of the NEC.

 Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital

She had developed a severe condition called perforated necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) and she was transferred to St George’s.

NEC most often affects premature babies and occurs when intestinal tissue becomes damaged and begins to die.   

During the operation, the surgical team opened her abdomen, where three ruptures were found in her intestine, causing contamination and infection throughout her abdomen.

A section of her intestine was removed and her abdomen was thoroughly washed.

A temporary stoma, like a colostomy bag, was inserted during the challenging operation, which lasted less than an hour and involved specialist tiny equipment.

Consultant paediatric surgeon Zahid Mukhtar, from St George’s, led the 10-strong team that operated on Abiageal.

Mr Mukhtar has examined published literature and spoken to paediatric surgical colleagues across the country and says he believes she is the youngest patient to survive major abdominal surgery. 

He said: ‘Abiageal is a unique case and we only chose to operate because her chances of survival without surgery were so small,’ he said.

‘The fact she survived the operation, and is now doing so well, is fantastic news.

‘We will continue to monitor her closely, but all the signs suggest we should be optimistic about her long-term prognosis. 

‘This is credit to Abiageal, her family, as well as the surgical, medical and nursing teams involved in looking after her.’ 

Abiageal is now at home near Esher after celebrating her original due date on February 19.  

ABORTION TIME LIMIT

Most abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

They can be carried out after 24 weeks in certain circumstances – for example, if the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.

But last year, the Royal College of Midwives argued for women to be allowed to abort at any point without facing criminal sanctions.

But critics fear such a radical change in the law will lead to terminations for the wrong reasons, including being the ‘wrong’ sex. 

The campaign came after a 24-year-old woman was jailed for deliberately inducing a miscarriage when she was eight months pregnant.