The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) seems like an intimidating place for some, and a hopeful place for others. Filled with loud noises, new doctors and nurses popping in and out, and seeing tiny babies in incubators — the NICU is a place where babies born prematurely—or with other harsh defects—can stay to develop and grow in a safe environment. With round-the-clock care and space for parents to watch and bond, the success rates in NICUs continue to climb as parents hope for a positive outcome.
With hundreds of years in the making, we found 10 facts everyone should know about NICUS, whether they have a disruption in their pregnancy or they're thinking about having children in the future. We can never be too prepared.
10 Measurements Are Done A Tad Differently
According to NICU Helping Hands, the NICU looks at measurements differently when it comes to caring for their babies. Breastmilk tends to be measured in milliliters and babies are measured in grams.
What's even more interesting is doctors will weigh the baby's diaper to find out how much urine they're expelling a day. Verywell Family explains that milliliters, CCs, and grams are "interchangeable," which why they're used.
9 There Was A Time When Incubators Weren't See-Through
The sweet thing about being in the NICU in 2019 is how far ahead we are in the medical world. We've progressed so much and have the best of the best in terms of equipment and care. One very important thing about being in the NICU is the opportunity to see your baby through the incubator whenever you want. However, there was a time where that wasn't always possible. Cafe Mom explains back in the '40s, incubators weren't see-through but over time, professionals created plastic sides so they can treat the babies more effectively.
8 NICU Levels
Depending on when a baby is born and how much help they need, the NICU created different levels that differentiate the level of care — starting from level one through four.
NICU Helping Hands notes Level I is for basic care; Level II is for babies weighing under 1,500 grams (3.3 pounds) and who need airway help (among other things); Level III is for babies who need intensive care in terms of breathing and functionality; and Level IV (the highest level in the NICU) are for babies who need the most care regarding little development being done in the womb.
7 NICUs Come With A Price
Knowing labor and delivery is going to set a mom back (around) $5,000 — it makes you wonder how much the NICU costs. Not only will parents need to pay that $5,000 price tag for giving birth to their baby in the hospital, but the AMA Journal of Ethics says the NICU can cost around $3,500 a day. As always, doctors and nurses in the NICU can't give mom and dad a set day of when their child will be released. Only time will tell, meaning that bill is going up and up.
6 One In 10
The March of Dimes notes that one in 10 babies will head to the NICU, meaning they're born before 37 weeks. When you think about how many births there are a day, that's hundreds of thousands of premature births. We're so lucky to have the NICUs help in creating a high success rate for babies to "graduate" and live a full life outside the hospital walls.
5 Babies In The NICU Could Face This Common Problem
When a woman is 37-40 weeks pregnant, she's considered to be "full term," meaning the baby should be healthy and strong enough if a woman should go into labor. Babies born before those 37 weeks, however, may find themselves in the NICU.
Among other things, a baby's eyesight isn't fully developed until around 38-40 weeks, meaning if they're born before that they could have Retinopathy of Prematurity. This disorder is enough to cause a baby to go blind (especially when underweight) or have troubles seeing later in life.
4 There Was A Time Where Skin To Skin Bonding Wasn't Encouraged — But That's All Changed
Skin-to-skin has so many benefits for both parent and baby. It's a chance for the baby to feel connected to their parent, hearing their heartbeat and picking up their scent. It's also a time for the parent to finally feel and see their little one. However, there was a time where this kind of contact wasn't allowed in the NICU. It wasn't until the '70s that health professionals realized babies needed a combination of both medical intervention and the feel of their parents' touch. It was also around this time that they started allowing dads in as a "parent" and not as a visitor!
3 The NICU Heroes
Every single person who works in a hospital is a hero. While many parents are grateful for their labor and delivery doctor and nurses, their hearts will be forever connected to those in the NICU who gave their babies a fighting chance.
The March of Dimes site explains there are a number of "heroes" in the NICU, including neonatologists, pediatric residents, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and more. Neonatologists are pediatricians with even more education on how to take care of unwell newborns.
2 Mamas Will Still Be Able To Breastfeed
When a mother has her eyes set on breastfeeding, nothing should get in her way. But when a baby is born prematurely, that may leave some mothers panic-stricken. Knowing how important the antibodies in breastmilk are, if a baby isn't strong enough to suckle or breastfeed themselves, mothers can use a breast pump and feed the baby via bottle or through a feeding tube. If a woman isn't producing breastmilk, the NICU can use breastmilk from a donor or formula, if that's your choice.
1 There Are Multiple Reasons Why Babies Are Entered Into The NICU
Sadly, there are multiple reasons why a baby is admitted to the NICU. However, parents should feel confident and lucky that they have the best possible care to get their baby out of the hospital in a healthy way.
Live Well notes the top reasons why babies are admitted to the NICU are for prematurity, infection, Respiratory Distress Syndrome (when their lungs aren't fully developed), Hypoglycemia, and other traumatic occurrences that can happen during birth.