The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
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.
Most babies admitted to the NICU are premature (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), have low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds), or have a medical condition that requires special care. In the U.S., nearly half a million babies are born preterm, and many of these babies also have low birth weights. Twins, triplets, and other multiples often are admitted to the NICU, as they tend to be born earlier and smaller than single birth babies. Babies with medical conditions such as heart problems, infections, or birth defects are also cared for in the NICU.
The following are some factors that can place a baby at high risk and increase the chances of being admitted to the NICU. However, each baby must be evaluated individually to determine the need for admission. High-risk factors include the following :
- Age younger than 16 or older than 40 years.
- Drug or alcohol exposure.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, or more).
- Too little or too much amniotic fluid.
- Premature rupture of membranes (also called the amniotic sac or bag of waters).