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Neonatal Intensive Care Units—Caring for You and Your Baby

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Posted at 9:51 AM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 15:57:56-05

Pregnancy and childbirth are important steps in any family’s life. Childbirth, especially, is a complex process that requires a great deal of physical and emotional strength from both mother and baby. When the time finally comes for the baby to leave the mother’s womb, many bodily functions change drastically, which can be a difficult transition for a baby’s system. Premature birth, complications during delivery, and birth defects can make the transition even more challenging and require specialized care from a neonatal intensive care unit.

What is the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)?

The NICU is a unit of the hospital that includes a specialized team of medical professionals and advanced technology to provide routine care for premature or sick babies. In the NICU, a neonatologist, along with an extensive team of trained personnel, will work with the parents to care for the newborn and get him or her on the right track toward optimal health.

Why is the NICU an important part of the hospital?

Although the technology in the NICU is vital for the health and developmental wellbeing of baby, the medical team is the true backbone of the entire unit. NICUs are designed for babies in most critical conditions. Premature or sick babies can be sensitive to the environment around them, so the NICU provides secure, stabilized incubators in rooms that are designed to reduce noise and light levels.

NICU nurses and other highly trained personnel, such as respiratory therapists, monitor the babies around the clock. In addition to the primary medical staff, emotional support is provided to the parents through social workers, volunteers, support groups, and hospital chaplains. All parents are encouraged to be a major part of their baby’s progress in the NICU, which includes learning about the special care a premature baby needs at home.