Having a baby is a wonderful but complex process. There are many changes, both physical and emotional for the parents and the newborn. Every parent wants to have a happy, healthy baby but unfortunately that is not always the case. It’s comforting for parents and families to know that should any problems arise; the Houston Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OakBend Medical Center is nearby and ready to take care of the tiniest of patients.
Most people do know not know what a NICU is until they actually need one. NICU’s are designed for premature and very ill babies in the most critical conditions. More than 15 million babies are born prematurely around the world each year. A 2015 study released by the Journal of American Medicine revealed that number of American babies admitted to a NICU in the is on the rise. However, because infants now have access to the specialized care they need in NICUs across the United States, the neonatal mortality rate has fallen more than 75 percent.
There are many benefits of having an NICU close to home including:
• Parents and newborns being treated at NICUs have access to a full range of highly trained pediatric, medical and surgical subspecialties including neonatologists (pediatricians with additional training for sick and premature babies), respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, dietitians, lactation consultants, and social workers.
• If a mother goes into labor very early (before 32 weeks) the baby will need immediate and specialized treatment in a NICU. If she does not give birth in a hospital with a NICU, transporting a preemie to a qualified NICU can be risky.
• If the birth weight is less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, or over 8 pounds, 13 ounces the baby may need to be treated at a NICU.
• Twins, triplets and all other multiples are more likely to need the specialized treatment available at a NICU as they tend to be smaller and born sooner.
• Babies with birth defects, heart problems, seizures or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) will often need a NICU.
• High-risk newborns with respiratory disorders or infections can require a NICU.
• Many maternal factors could make a NICU necessary:
o If the mother is younger than 16 or older than 40.
o If the mother has diabetes.
o If the mother has too little or too much amniotic fluid.
o If the mother has high blood pressure.
o If the mother has any sexually transmitted diseases.
o If the mother has had drug or alcohol exposure.
• Premature and sick babies can be sensitive to loud noise and bright lights around them and the incubators available in NICUs provide secure and stable sanctuaries for newborns.
Next steps for expecting parents
As a Level II NICU, OakBend Medical Center provides advanced care for premature and ill newborns. Their NICU combines the best of delivery care and specialized treatment with the comforts of home. Though most mothers and their infants do not always need around-the-clock consultation services, they can rest assured that OakBend Medical Center is always available. For your convenience, a family waiting area is located right next to the NICU area and whenever there is room available, parents are encouraged to stay overnight.
If you have any questions or for more information please call OakBend Medical Center and ask for the NICU at 281-341-3000. The members of the NICU team will work together with you to develop birthing and care plans for high-risk newborns. Their unit is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Also ask about the parent and family support groups designed to foster parental involvement.