Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

A difficult pregnancy can be quite a testing time for the expecting parents. While the doctors do the best they can, oftentimes, babies are born prematurely.

Some babies are born close to their due date. While they may not require intensive care, babies born way before their due date are often shifted to a special unit in the hospital called the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

What is a neonatal intensive care unit?

A neonatal intensive care unit is a specialised nursery unit of a hospital that helps provide premature or newborn babies with intensive care. Advanced technology and machines help simulate an environment that resembles a mother's womb. Here, the babies are treated until they are strong enough to survive in normal conditions.

While all premature babies require the NICU, some full-term babies with congenital conditions also require the service. Your doctor may recommend admitting your baby to the NICU if they have any conditions that make it difficult for them to breathe or swallow.

Why does a newborn require staying in the NICU?

A NICU unit is a boon for mothers who go into premature labour. The organs of premature babies are often underdeveloped. The NICU provides them with the right kind of environment to help them grow. The duration of the baby's NICU stay usually depends on their response to the treatment and medications.

Before birth, a baby must have

  • a working circulatory and excretory system.
  • Healthy functioning kidneys and urinary system
  • Fully developed lungs and a digestive system
  • a strong cardiac rhythm
  • a functioning immune system.

Preterm babies often do not have these, so specialised services like the NICU are essential for their survival.

Who qualifies for NICU services?

All babies born before their term require NICU services. These include-

  • Babies born before 37 weeks of gestation
  • Babies with a birth weight of fewer than 2.4 kg
  • Babies with breathing difficulties
  • Babies born with a congenital heart condition
  • Twins, triplets, or multiples
  • Babies born with other birth defects

NICU services are quite a critical requirement if you are dealing with a complicated pregnancy or a pregnancy with multiples. However, not all hospitals provide this facility. So make sure you select a good hospital that provides these facilities on the premises.

When would you require NICU services?

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may suggest looking for a hospital with a NICU unit. The high-risk maternal factors that may result in a premature birth include the following:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • maternal age: younger than 16 years or older than 40 years
  • sexually transmitted disease
  • multiple pregnancies
  • too much or too little amniotic fluid
  • bleeding
  • drugs or alcohol use
  • preeclampsia

Having two or more of these factors during your pregnancy can put you at risk of preterm delivery.

What are the benefits of having a NICU unit?

The advantages of a NICU unit in the hospital are:

  • Pre-term babies who receive NICU care immediately after birth have better chances of survival.
  • Mothers have a chance to recover and rest after a difficult delivery.
  • Pre-term babies have the best team of doctors and nurses to care for them when they are in the NICU.
  • Most of the baby's health conditions will be resolved before the baby is handed to you.
  • The baby will have a normal birth weight before being released from the NICU.


When a baby is born prematurely, there are a lot of things at stake, including the baby's life. Time is rather critical here. Therefore, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, you might want to select a birth hospital that provides state-of-the-art NICU services. The birth of a new baby should be a joyous occasion in the family, and receiving the best care for you and your newborn will surely make the journey easy.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad - Kondapur. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. How long do newborns have to stay in the NICU?

The length of time newborns stay in the NICU depends on their birth time and weight. For example, a baby born earlier than 32 weeks may need to stay for more days than a baby born after 32 weeks.

2. Do parents have to stay with the baby in the NICU?

No. Parents can visit from time to time. However, only the designated doctors and nurses take care of the baby until they are in the NICU.

3. Do all C-section babies go to the NICU?

No. C-section babies that are born full-term and have the minimum required birth weight are not required to be admitted to the NICU.

4. What is the normal weight of the baby at 35 weeks?

While the weight of the baby in utero depends on several factors, a baby at 35 weeks should normally weigh 2.4 kg.

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