SOMERVILLE — Zia Eradze was not new to motherhood, but her second pregnancy delivered a whirlwind no expectant parents could ever anticipate.

The Bound Brook mother was on pace to bring twins into the world around the end of May. The fact she was delivering two babies instead of one wasn't the issue, though.

Following a routine stress test at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, at 33 weeks pregnant, Eradze learned one of her unborn twins was not thriving. In fact, the male was losing weight inside her, instead of growing.

So on April 19, several weeks prior to full-term, Noah and Mia were born. Noah weighed 2.14 pounds and Mia weighed 3.4 pounds — each significantly less than half the average weight of a baby in the United States.

"I've never seen such small babies in my life," Eradze told New Jersey 101.5, standing outside the nursery where her babies spent nearly a month. "They were so tiny I was worried I might hurt them ... I was just letting the nurses take care of the babies at the beginning."

According to Dr. Swapna Borole, director of neonatal-perinatal medicine at RWJUH Somerset, the babies initially needed oxygen support, but a ventilator was not necessary thanks to steroids administered before they were born.

The Level II nursery, devoted to babies born later than 32 weeks and earlier than 35 weeks, provides around-the-clock monitoring and specialized care, Borole said. Feeding and respiratory issues are the main concerns with premature infants.

"The nurses here are trained in feeding the babies and then after that we have to train the parent how to feed the premature babies," she said.

The nursery is staffed 24/7 by a neonatal intensive care specialist — a comfort not offered at most hospitals, noted Dr. David Sorrentino, chief of Neonatology with RWJ Medical School.

"We're here all the time so in case there's any emergencies, we don't want to be a car drive away. We want to be physically present on the facilities," Sorrentino said.

The field has made significant strides over the past couple decades in improving the outcomes of premature babies, Sorrentino said. At 32 to 34 weeks, the survival rate is 95 to 99 percent. And of those who survive, 95 to 99 percent do so without developmental issues.

Sorrentino said the hospital's New Brunswick and Somerset locations consistently exceed or hit the national marks for survival and outcomes of babies born early.

Noah and Mia turn 5 months on Tuesday. They're perfectly healthy at home with Mom, Dad and 8-year-old brother Matthew.

"They're growing, getting stronger," Eradze said. "They're still small, smaller than usual, but we're getting there."

Premature babies do catch up in size once outside the womb, said Dr. Margaret Andrin, chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology at RWJUH Somerset. Their growth was stunted in the placenta but can get on track with the correct care in the hospital and at home.

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