Not all NICU babies are preemies

isoletteThe wonderful DiscoveryHealth NICU series (Thursdays at 10 PM ET/PT) has brought to light the intensity and reality of the struggles premature babies and their families face.  But babies born full term can be in the NICU, too, especially if they are sick or have a birth defect and need specialized treatment.

Some babies are born with an abdominal wall defect such as gastroschisis or omphalocele. These often require surgery or staged repair over time.  Some babies have heart defects that also require monitoring or surgery.  Other babies may qualify as full term (over 37 completed weeks) but have failed to thrive and have a low birthweight.   Other conditions that might require a stay in the NICU  include: anemia (low number of red blood cells in the blood), apnea (breathing irregularity), bradycardia (abnormal slowing of the heart rate), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (a form of chronic lung disease), hydrocephalus (water on the brain), sepsis (infection that spreads throughout the body).

All of us with preemies are acutely aware of these intensive care services, but we need to realize that the wonderful staff of the NICU need to be prepared for any baby, any size, any gestational age, any complication.  Thank goodness they are there for all of us.

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11 Responses to “Not all NICU babies are preemies”

  1. Karon Warren Says:

    Thank goodness for NICUs the quality staff that work in them. About 6 years ago, friends of mine had a full-term baby boy that went to the NICU after he ingested meconium during delivery. He stayed for a week while the doctors and nurses worked to clear his lungs. His mother said he wouldn’t have survived without their quick response to a dangerous situation. More recently, my niece was born full-term and due to her size (10 lbs.+), the doctor had to break her arm to deliver her quickly before she started to lose oxygen in her brain. The staff quickly took her to the NICU so they could treat her arm and get it in a sling so it would start healing quickly and to avoid nerve damage. Thanks to their quick response, she now has a healthy arm without any damage. As you can see, NICUs are definitely not just for preemies. Thankfully, the staff is trained to treat babies with all types of medical needs.

  2. Valerie Says:

    Thank you. My daughter just turned one in August and was a survivor of the NICU. She was born with a heart defect to which caused SVT when she was born. The NICU was wonderful! I felt bad because of all the preemies that were in there, and here I had a 6 pound baby requiring the nurse’s attention. However, my daughter was very critical until they were able to figure out the correct dosage of medicine to give her. I am saddened that I have to share the NICU expirence with all the mothers out there, but feel that babies like my daughter are often not thought of. Please remember all the babies that make it out of the NICU are blessings that we would not have if there is not staff trained in dealing with all sizes of babies.

  3. Helen Says:

    I second that “thank goodness!” My baby girl was full term, but swallowed a lot of merconium and spent the first week of her life in the NICU. The nurses and doctors are amazing.

  4. aftann patton Says:

    my daughter was born at 34 1/2 weeks gestation. She weighed over 8 lbs she has sever central apnea and fluid retention as well as a hypoventilation syndrom. She was not in the NICCU but we saw the NICCU and PICCU nurses a lot. Thank you to those who are there for not only my child but for my family.

  5. Jen Says:

    My daughter was born full term at 5 pounds, 6 ounces and half a heart. After the nursery nurses heard a murmur she was given an echo and then placed in the NICU. At four days old she received the first of 3 open heart surgeries. Now 3 years old we are dealing wtih complications from her last surgery, but in general doing VERY WELL! We are so greatful and have so much love in our hearts for hospital NICU and PICU nurses! They are the best of the best!

  6. Angelique Hopkins Says:

    Thank you!! My son was born at 36 weeks weighing 7lbs 10oz. At first he was fine but within a few hours of birth he developed pulmonary hypertension. He became very sick and had to be put on a ventilator and eventually needed ECMO aka lung bypass. We then found out he had Down Syndrome by this point we didn’t care we just wanted him to survive. The first five days of his life were ver shaky and we weren’t sure if he would make it. The staff at the NICU were wonderful and not only saved his life but helped my husband and I through a very scarey and stressful time. After 6 weeks he was able to come home with O2 support. Now he is an amazing 16 month old who is all over the place. As fast as the time went I will always remember his tough beginning and how the doctors and nurses helped us to get to today.

  7. amanda Says:

    My son Mario was born at 27 weeks and 4 days, although all babies in the nicu aren’t preemies i am so thankful to God and technology,doctors, etc that they have the ability to help these babies survive no matter what the situation. I am a healthy 20 year old woman and delivering prematurely NEVER crossed my mind. So when i was rushed to the hospital after sever pain from my placenta abrupting i just kept thinking oh no my baby is too early he is not going to make it. This is something i honestly have never heard of and well i went through this for a reason. After 2 months at UCSF i was able to bring home my healthy baby and after 2 months of being home he is ding wonderful and i honestly am SO thankful for the UCSF ICN.

  8. Kate McQueen Says:

    My son was born on his due date with interuterine growth restriction from an undiagnosed placental abnormality, developed sepsis and had a perinatal stroke. The team of professionals that saved his life were awe inspiring and so completely impressive. I thank everyday that there are people who work with this level of knowledge of care. My son is approaching a year and is recovering very well!

  9. moogle Says:

    I saw that episode and I was shocked to see that the person who was in the show was my old math teacher. It’s terrible for a child and for their family but it’s really great when a family is pressing this hard to make sure they do everything they can for their child and to have a place like this where you can get help.

  10. Danielle Says:

    This is great. I have a daughter who is not a preemie but still spent three months in the NICU. I’ve definitely felt alone as a non-preemie NICU mom, because I don’t really fit in with preemie or “termie” moms. The assumption that my daughter was premature, or worse, “secretly premature” (like I didn’t know), was one of my biggest pet peeves.

  11. Lindsay Says:

    Danielle, I’m glad you liked the post and I appreciate your comment. I hope your daughter is doing well.

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