Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Ensuring Specialised Care for Premature Newborns

The birth of a baby is a beautiful yet complicated process at times. It marks several emotional and physical changes for the baby and the mother. Leaving the uterus at the time of birth means that the child is no longer dependent on the mother's body for important body functions.

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is for preterm babies who need special advanced care post-birth for the proper functioning of their body and the right development and growth in the future.

What is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?

Newborn babies requiring special and intensive medical care are often admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a special part of the hospital. This intensive care unit has trained healthcare professionals, and advanced technology for providing special care to preterm babies.

Which Babies Need Intensive Care?

A majority of babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are preterm (babies born before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy). These babies also have a low birth weight (lower than 5.5 pounds) or have health conditions that require specialised care.

Also, multiple pregnancies involving twins and triplets are often admitted to this intensive care unit. Babies with health conditions such as respiratory issues, heart infections and several other birth defects are also cared for in the NICU.

Levels of Care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Level I care

Neonates with gestational maturity of 34 weeks or more or weighing higher than 1800 grams are categorised under level I care.

Level II care

Neonates with gestational maturity of 30-34 weeks or weighing 1200 to 1800 grams are categorized under level II care. These neonates are looked after by a neonatologist and trained nurses.

Level III care

Neonates with a gestational maturity of less than 30 weeks and weighing less than 1200 grams are categorized under level III of neonatal intensive care.

What are the Factors that Increase the Chances of Admission to NICU?

Maternal factors

  1. Mothers younger than the age of 16 or older than age 40
  2. Alcohol or drug use
  3. Diabetes
  4. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  5. Bleeding
  6. STIs (Sexually transmitted infections)
  7. Multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, or more)
  8. Too much or too little amniotic fluid
  9. Premature membrane rupture (also called the amniotic sac or water bag)

Delivery-related factors

  1. Alterations in the organ system of the body due to lack of oxygen supply (birth asphyxia or fetal distress)
  2. The first stool of the baby (meconium) passed into the amniotic fluid at the time of pregnancy

Birth-related factors

  1. Birth at the gestational age of less than 37 weeks or higher than 42 weeks
  2. Weight at the time of birth less than 5 pounds or more than 8 pounds
  3. Birth defects
  4. Respiratory distress (Apnea, grunting, rapid breathing)
  5. Infections like group B streptococcus and herpes
  6. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
  7. Need for procedures like blood transfusion

The bodily system of a baby must work together in a way that promotes growth and development. In some cases, the baby faces trouble making a transition outside of the womb. Birth defects, preterm birth or difficult birth can make these changes even more challenging. Neonatal care provided by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit ensures that the newborn is healthy and safe.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Delhi-NCR - Moti Nagar. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. Who can visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?

Parents can visit and spend time with their newborns in the NICU. However, a NICU does not have accommodation arrangements for the parents. Other members of the family can also visit during the set hours.

2. What type of equipment is available in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?

Some of the equipment available at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit include:
1. Infant warmers
2. Phototherapy machine
3. Bubble CPAP
4. Oxygen hoods
5. Syringe and infusion pumps
6. Incubators
7. Cardiorespiratory monitor
8. Feeding tubes
9. Neonatal Ventilators

3. Can I breastfeed my baby in a NICU?

Yes. Mothers can breastfeed their babies or offer formula/pumped breast milk in a bottle. You can also ask for help from a lactation consultant or a nurse in the intensive care unit.

4. How is ICU different from NICU?

ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit and is designed to cater to adults in critical conditions. Neonatal Intensive Care Units are carefully and specially designed to cater to babies requiring critical treatment.

5. Who is a Neonatologist?

A NICU is an advanced life support unit for newborns with a team of highly skilled specialists and medical staff. A neonatologist is a pediatrician with specialised training to take care of preterm babies or babies with birth defects. The neonatalogist also supervises nurse practitioners, pediatric residents and fellows.

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