What is the neonatal intensive care unit?
Newborn babies who need intensive medical attention are often admitted into a special area of the hospital called the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The NICU combines advanced technology and trained health care professionals to provide specialized care for the tiniest patients. NICUs may also have intermediate or continuing care areas for babies who are not as sick but do need specialized nursing care. Some hospitals do not have the personnel or a NICU and babies must be transferred to another hospital.
Some newborn babies will require care in a NICU, and giving birth to a sick or premature baby can be quite unexpected for any parent. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and equipment in the NICU can be overwhelming. This information is provided to help you understand some of the problems of sick and premature babies. You will also find out about some of the procedures that may be needed for the care of your baby.
The birth of a baby is a wonderful yet very complex process. Many physical and emotional changes occur for mother and baby.
A baby must make many physical adjustments to life outside the mother's body. Leaving the uterus means that a baby can no longer depend on the mother's circulation and placenta for important physiologic functions.
Before birth, breathing, eating, elimination of waste, and immunologic protection all came from the mother. When a baby enters the world, many body systems change dramatically from the way they functioned during fetal life:
- The lungs must breathe air.
- The cardiac and pulmonary circulation changes.
- The digestive system must begin to process food and excrete waste.
- The kidneys must begin working to balance fluids and chemicals in the body and excrete waste.
- The liver and immunologic systems must begin functioning independently.
Your baby's body systems must work together in a new way. Sometimes, a baby has difficulty making the transition to the world. Being born prematurely, having a difficult delivery, or birth defects can make these changes more challenging. Fortunately for these babies, special newborn care is available.