Babies who are born with special circumstances, such as illness, infection, respiratory problems, problems during delivery, birth defects or those who arrive too early are often cared for by a special team of health care professionals in a special unit of the hospital -- the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.
According to the March of Dimes, every year about 10 to 15 percent of American babies are treated in the NICU. Vicky Leland, a registered nurse and the regional director of NICU Family Support, West Region, for the March of Dimes, answers our questions and shares experiences as a 20-year veteran of the NICU.
First, we asked Vicky to explain what the NICU is.
"A general, good definition is a place in the hospital for babies who require more than routine care. That could be a course of antibiotics or extremely high-level intensive care. There is a real variety in the types of babies in the NICU. There are one-pound babies hooked to a lot of machinery as well as babies who look healthy, chubby and fat, and are there for special feeding or IV meds. There are also babies who need surgical intervention."
Keep reading to see what, exactly, brings a baby to the NICU.