Why Does My Baby Need To Be In NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)?Dr. Joshi Anand Kerketta
Reading Time: 3 minutes
MBBS, DCH, MD – Paediatrics
Senior Consultant – Paediatrics & Neonatology
Durgapur, West Bengal
No mother wants to be separated from her newborn baby. However, due to medical reasons sometimes doctors may require the baby to spend a few days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Let’s elaborate on some of the common medical reasons which may necessitate NICU stay for your baby.First things first. A NICU is an intensive care unit designed especially for newborns. Here, expert healthcare providers care for sick infants as well as babies with special needs. Here are 6 reasons why your doctor may need your baby to stay in the NICU.
Your Baby Was Born Prematurely
A full-term baby is born after 39 weeks. Babies born before completing 37 weeks in their mother’s womb are considered premature babies. Premature babies find it harder to transition to the outside environment as their physical and mental development is inadequate. Some of the hardships they may face include:
- Inability to control body temperature
- Excessive weight loss
- Unstable vitals
All of these issues can have a long-term impact on the infant’s physical and neurological health. Thus, it is better for them to spend a few days in an incubator where the environment mimics their mother’s uterine environment.
Your Baby Has Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)
Respiratory Distress Syndrome is one of the most common lung diseases to affect babies. It typically occurs when the baby’s lungs have insufficient development. The more prematurely born, the higher the risk of developing RDS. Symptoms of RDS include:
- Rapid breathing
- Noisy breathing
- Flaring of the nostrils
Mild cases can be treated with a machine that pushes oxygen into the baby’s lungs while in severe cases, the baby may need to be placed on a ventilator or fitted with a breathing tube.
Your Baby Has An Infection
Infections are more commonly seen amongst premature babies but they may also affect full-term babies. Newborn babies have a weak immune system and hence find it difficult to fight infections. An infection like sepsis can be dangerous for your baby’s health.
However, placing your baby in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit allows doctors to monitor your baby’s health and administer antibiotics as needed. They can also watch for signs of infection and check laboratory values.
Your Baby Has Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is a condition wherein the sugar levels in the blood are lower than what they should be. In a newborn baby, this could be the result of:
- Incompatible blood types of mother and baby
- Mother not getting proper nutrition during the pregnancy
- Mother having poorly controlled diabetes
- Pancreatic tumor
- Birth defects
- Hormone deficiencies
- Congenital metabolic diseases
The best form of treatment is dependent on your baby’s overall health and gestational age. Treatment may be as simple as feeding your baby glucose and water solution or may involve giving your baby glucose through an IV. In the case of the latter especially, a stay in the NICU would be advisable.
Your Baby Has Perinatal Depression
Trouble during delivery or a traumatic delivery can reduce the oxygen and blood flow to the baby. This may result in perinatal depression. In such cases, your baby may be placed in a NICU to allow doctors to keep the baby’s body cool. This reduces the risk of brain damage.
You Have Maternal Chorioamnionitis
Maternal chorioamnionitis is a condition that affects the mother’s health before or during delivery. It can be described as an infection or inflammation of the placenta and the umbilical cord. This condition puts your baby at a very high risk of infection.
The mother’s immune system may be able to fight off the infection but since the baby’s immune system is still developing, doctors may advise a stay in the NICU for at least 48 hours. During this time, their vitals will be monitored and if required, they will be administered antibiotics.
Having your baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit may be stressful for you as a new parent but rest assured that this is the place where your baby will get the best treatment and care. In most cases, babies born without any complications will be sent home within 72 hours as long as their vitals are stable. A few days of extra care and you can have a healthy, happy baby back in your arms!