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Q&A with a NICU Nurse


Welcome to the NICU
Premature birth, jaundice or respiratory issues could land a baby in the NICU.
Premature birth, jaundice or respiratory issues could land a baby in the NICU.
March of Dimes Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

What are some of the common diagnoses among newborns in the NICU, and is there an average length of stay?

"Jaundice, respiratory issues, feeding problems, these are all very common.

Different hospitals have different protocols depending on the condition and how big or little the babies are. In regard to length of stay, there isn't an average. It mostly depends on why the baby is in the NICU. An infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics could mean the baby is in the unit for three to seven days. Other babies, especially the very premature babies, could stay anywhere from three months to a year -- it depends on what unfolds for them as they progress. A baby in the NICU at a freestanding children's hospital will usually stay longer because these babies are usually surgically in need of help.

In my career, in 20 years, I saw one baby spend eleven and a half months in the unit. It's a really difficult scenario for a young family. If you're pregnant and it's going along fine, there isn't a lot of emotional preparedness for complications. If something is caught late in pregnancy or at delivery, you haven't had a whole lot of time for that to be part of your life. It disorients and discombobulates young families."

To see what support is available in the NICU, keep reading.


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