The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

We can't find this page

We're sorry, there doesn't seem to be anything at this address.



Please Search for what you're looking for in the top right corner of this page, or visit the homepage

These links might help:

Request an Appointment 

Find a Doctor

Conditions and Procedures 

Career Opportunities

Billing Information

Directions to Boston Children's Hospital

Boston Children's Hospital Locations

More Patient Resources



Still can't find what you need? Contact Us.

Request an Appointment

If this is a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1. This form should not be used in an emergency.

Patient Information
Date of Birth:
Contact Information
Appointment Details
Send RequestIf you do not see the specialty you are looking for, please call us at: 617-355-6000.International visitors should call International Health Services at +1-617-355-5209.
Please complete all required fieldsThis department is currently not accepting appointment requests onlineThis department is currently not accepting appointment requests online

Thank you.

Your request has been successfully submitted

You will be contacted within 1 business day.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call:

617-355-6000+1-617-355-6000
close
Find a Doctor
Search by Clinician's Last Name or Specialty:
Select by Location:
Search by First Letter of Clinician's Last Name: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
More optionsSearch
Condition & Treatments
Search for a Condition or Treatment:
Show Items Starting With: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
View allSearch
Visitor Information
“
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
Close
Diseases & Conditions

High-Risk Newborn

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. Leaving the uterus means that a baby can no longer depend on the mother's circulation and placenta for important physiologic functions.

Baby in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Baby in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

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.

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.

Which babies need special care?

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:

  • Maternal factors:

    • Age younger than 16 or older than 40 years

    • Drug or alcohol exposure

    • Diabetes

    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

    • Bleeding

    • 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)

  • Delivery factors:

    • Fetal distress/birth asphyxia (changes in organ systems due to lack of oxygen)

    • Breech delivery presentation (buttocks delivered first) or other abnormal presentation

    • Meconium (the baby's first stool passed during pregnancy into the amniotic fluid)

    • Nuchal cord (cord around the baby's neck)

    • Forceps or cesarean delivery

  • Baby factors:

    • Birth at gestational age less than 37 weeks or more than 42 weeks

    • Birth weight less than 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces) or over 4,000 grams (8 pounds, 13 ounces)

    • Small for gestational age

    • Medication or resuscitation in the delivery room

    • Birth defects

    • Respiratory distress including rapid breathing, grunting, or apnea (stopping breathing)

    • Infection such as herpes, group B streptococcus, chlamydia

    • Seizures

    • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

    • Need for extra oxygen or monitoring, intravenous (IV) therapy, or medications

    • Need for special treatment or procedures such as a blood transfusion

Who will care for your baby in the NICU?

The following are some of the specially trained health care professionals who will be involved in the care of your baby:

  • Neonatologist. A pediatrician with additional training in the care of sick and premature babies. The neonatologist supervises pediatric fellows and residents, nurse practitioners, and nurses who care for babies in the NICU.

  • Respiratory therapists

  • Occupational therapists

  • Dietitians

  • Lactation consultants

  • Pharmacists

  • Social workers

  • Hospital chaplains

The members of the NICU team work together with parents to develop a plan of care for high-risk newborns. Ask about the NICUs parent support groups and other programs designed to encourage parental involvement.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 6/28/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

We can't find this page

We're sorry, there doesn't seem to be anything at this address.



Please Search for what you're looking for in the top right corner of this page, or visit the homepage

These links might help:

Request an Appointment 

Find a Doctor

Conditions and Procedures 

Career Opportunities

Billing Information

Directions to Boston Children's Hospital

Boston Children's Hospital Locations

More Patient Resources



Still can't find what you need? Contact Us.

Request an Appointment

If this is a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1. This form should not be used in an emergency.

Patient Information
Date of Birth:
Contact Information
Appointment Details
Send RequestIf you do not see the specialty you are looking for, please call us at: 617-355-6000.International visitors should call International Health Services at +1-617-355-5209.
Please complete all required fieldsThis department is currently not accepting appointment requests onlineThis department is currently not accepting appointment requests online

Thank you.

Your request has been successfully submitted

You will be contacted within 1 business day.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call:

617-355-6000+1-617-355-6000
close
Find a Doctor
Search by Clinician's Last Name or Specialty:
Select by Location:
Search by First Letter of Clinician's Last Name: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
More optionsSearch
Condition & Treatments
Search for a Condition or Treatment:
Show Items Starting With: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
View allSearch
Visitor Information
“
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
Close