A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Also known as an intensive care nursery (ICN), is an intensive care unit specialising in the care of ill or premature new-born infants. The term neonatal comes from neo, “new”, and natal, “pertaining to birth or origin”. Neonatal refers to the first 28 days of life.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, also known as the Special Care Baby Unit or SCBU, provides intensive care for babies who are born prematurely or become very unwell.
The neonatal unit provides expert 24/7 hospital care for premature or sick babies.
Premature babies need extra help while their bodies catch up on the growth and development they missed in the womb. The neonatal unit provides this special care in several ways.
It's harder for premature babies to stay warm because they can’t regulate their own body temperature yet. A special cot (incubator) can help with this.
Some babies who are born early or who are very ill may need help with breathing until their lung development catches up.
If a baby is too small, too premature, or too weak to feed it might receive fluids and a nutrition mixture through a drip. Or it may need a tube that carries milk into its stomach.
Premature babies also need extra monitoring, treatment, and care because they can be more vulnerable to infection and other medical problems.
About half of babies in a neonatal unit are not born prematurely but need treatment or care because they are ill.
Having surgery, getting treatment for an infection, or having light therapy for jaundice are some of the reasons why a baby may also be in the neonatal unit.
In the U.K. around 80,000 babies are born prematurely every year; that’s enough to fill 28 primary schools.
Every year, over 100,000 babies are cared for in neonatal units in the UK because they have either been born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), or full-term (after 37 weeks) but are very sick. This means that around 1 in 7 babies born in the UK each year are admitted to a neonatal unit.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you and your supporters for the amazing support you give our unit. Sadly it is always difficult to find the money to keep all of our areas provided with the latest equipment plus all of the other things that contribute so much to patient and family care. Our role in the neonatal service is a combination of looking after very sick, fragile babies but also ensuring strong support for families at an incredibly stressful period for them. Your generosity gives us the ability to do our best at meeting that challenge." Mary Edwards, Chief Executive Hampshire hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Oct 2015