What Is a NICU?

Most of the time, the birthing experience goes smoothly. Mother labors, gives birth, and heads home with her new bundle. Sometimes, however, it’s not that easy. When a baby is born prematurely or has other serious health issues, specialty care is needed. That care is offered in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). But what is a NICU?

Inside the NICU

A NICU is a specialty unit with the sole purpose of caring for the most fragile infants, including premature babies and other babies who have critical health conditions. A multidisciplinary team of neonatologists, neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists, and others comes together to help little ones thrive. With expertise and special equipment, NICUs help delicate newborns overcome a variety of health issues, such as breathing problems, high blood pressure, pneumonia, heart abnormalities, blood sugar problems, gastrointestinal issues, serious infections, and other ailments requiring advanced medical care.

Four Levels of Neonatal Care

Maternity centers and NICUs provide different levels of neonatal care based on each center’s capabilities. The levels are broken down as follows:

Level I is typically for healthy newborns. These babies are born on or near their due dates and are stable. Level I nurseries also provide care for newborns who need a higher level of care until they can be transferred to a level II or higher facility.

Level II is equipped to care for babies born as early as 32 weeks. Babies may be cared for in a level II facility until being moved into a higher level of care. Others may move into a level II nursery after receiving care in a level III or IV facility.

Level III is a NICU. The Kim and Steven Ullman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is a level III NICU. Here, critically ill infants receive life-enhancing and lifesaving care. Breathing assistance and other services are offered to little ones who may be born before 32 weeks and weigh less than 3.3 pounds. On a rare occasion, a newborn is transferred to a higher level of care from a level III NICU.

Level IV is the highest level of care available. This NICU has all necessary resources to care for children with any condition.

What’s It Like When Your Baby Is in the NICU?

Having your baby cared for in the NICU can be stressful. This is especially true if you give birth at a hospital that lacks NICU capabilities and your baby needs to be transported to another hospital while you recover at the hospital where you gave birth. Even in NICU-equipped facilities, it can be difficult to bond with or breastfeed your newborn. That’s because most NICUs keep multiple babies in a single, open room. In this room, providers are constantly coming and going to care for fragile little ones. New parents have limited access, and there is increased risk of infection for delicate newborns.

A NICU Built for the Whole Family

Inside the Kim and Steven Ullman NICU at Henry Mayo, every detail was planned to keep mom, baby, and the whole family in mind. While most NICUs have open bays, newborns needing NICU care at Henry Mayo have private rooms. That means reduced risk of infection. It also allows parents to spend hours with their little ones. Thanks to private rooms, parents never have to step out to avoid overhearing sensitive conversations about another baby. During much of the day, they can spend time with and watch their babies. Parents aren’t the only ones who benefit from the new NICU. Thanks to NicView ®, extended family does as well. NicView® is an innovative technology that provides parents a secure, private video feed of their infant. Any time a parent, grandparent, or other loved one wants to check on their smallest family member, they simply log into NicView.net. There, they can see their little one in real-time. That means no more wondering how the baby is doing or waiting for updates on the baby’s status. With the click of a button, loved ones can see the baby’s progress for themselves. This provides incredible assurance and comfort in what can be a stressful time. And it’s just one more reason why pregnant women trust Henry Mayo with their most important moments.