While no parent would choose for their baby to placed in a NICU’s care, it is sometimes necessary so babies can get the medical support and help that they need. In September, we thank and honor all those who have been touched by a NICU, in one way or another.
NICU stands for: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
When a baby is placed in the care of a NICU, the parent(s) often experience many different emotions from fear to anxious/nervous, or happy and hopeful. A NICU team, usually led by a Neonatologist or Neonatal Fellow, will work together to create a plan that assists both parents and baby. NICU staff should include support for the parents such as optional counseling with a social worker, consults with a lactation specialist, caring and devoted nurses, etc.
Twins, triplets and other multiples are often admitted to the NICU as they tend to be born earlier or smaller than single babies. Any babies that have breathing issues, heart problems, infections or birth defects are also cared for in the NICU.
Some of the most common reasons for NICU care are:
- Meconium Ingestion
- Preterm/Early Delivery (before 37 wks. for a single, 36 wks. for twins, 32 wks. for triplets)
- Low Birth Weight (weighing less than 5.5 lbs)
- Major Health Concern/Condition
NICU’s also come in different levels, depending on the hospitals ability to care for an infants’ needs:
NICU I – Well newborn nursery. Typically used for healthy, full term babies. They stabilize babies born near term to prepare them for release to home or to a facility that might provide more advanced care.
NICU II – Special care nursery. Usually used for babies born at 32 weeks or more gestation that are pre-term or full term babies that require close monitoring or IV antibiotics after birth.
NICU III – Neonatal intensive-care unit. This unit can provide continuous life support and comprehensive care. They have access to a full range or pediatric medical specialists for premature and critically ill newborns.
NICU IV – Regional neonatal intensive care unit. This unit provides the most acute care. The nurseries are located in a hospital that can provide surgical repair of complex congenital or birth conditions.
In addition, there are some hospitals that do not have their own unit, if a newborn does require special care, they would have to be medically transported to a facility nearby that does have a NICU. This transportation may be through ambulance transfer or medivac helicopter.
**Not all hospitals in the United States have their own NICU. (Please be sure to research hospitals in your area to find out!)
A healthy birth is every parents desire, but it is comforting to know that should your baby/babies need additional care, a NICU is probably close at hand to provide the attention that your child – and you – may need., Take advantage of all the services provided to you for your mental and emotional health during this difficult time. When the day arrives that you get to take your baby home, know that this means the hospital feels you and your child are ready to enter the outside world together, and while you will be ever watchful, sit back and enjoy your days together.
These incredible doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, social workers and even volunteers, provide life saving procedures and programs that assist these little lives in thriving. For that, we (along with millions of parents around the world) are SO very grateful!