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What is Neonatal Care?

The last thing a pregnant woman wants to think about is something going wrong during deliver. However, itís important that you understand what can go wrong and whoís there to fix it. Neonatal care is a specialty area of pediatrics that deals with the care of newborn babies, especially those in critical situations.

Most babies in neonatal care are born premature or before their due date. Many babies born a month or more early wonít have fully developed lungs, and if a newborn baby is less than five pounds at birth, heíll probably have to stay in neonatal care until sufficient weight gain is achieved, just to be on the safe side. Of course, there are also some situations in which a baby is born with a medical condition that requires immediate neonatal care.

The bottom line here, however, is that you shouldnít be overly concerned just because youíre told your newborn baby is going to the neonatal care unit. There are many reasons that this might be done and until you have all the facts, thereís little cause for concern. Just stay calm and talk to your doctor to find out why neonatal care is required. In most cases, itís simply precautionary.

Most hospitals have four areas of neonatal care. Intensive care is the highest level of care and is reserved for babies that are severely underdeveloped or have severe medical conditions. High dependency care is for babies that require breathing assistance or an IV, but donít require the constant attention that ICU babies need. Special care is for babies that may or may not need oxygen, but are stable enough to be handled and bottle or breast fed. Finally, transitional care is for babies that are preparing to go home.

Your baby may go through any or all of the four stages of neonatal care. Special care or transitional care procedures are sometimes used as precautionary measures for babies whose APGAR scores are low or who have a low birth weight. In most cases, babies entering neonatal care at these stages arenít in care for long Ė possible just for a few hours.

The stage of neonatal care that your baby is in will affect how much interaction you can have and how that interaction will take place. Babies in intensive care canít be held in the conventional way, especially if theyíre in an incubator. Basically, the newbornís immune system is so fragile that the baby has to be kept in a sterile environment. In these cases, youíll only be able to interact with your baby briefly to prevent any disease transmission from occurring. The incubator will likely have built-in gloves used to hold and touch the baby without removing it from the machine. This is how youíll hold your baby until he becomes stable.

Other stages of neonatal care allow for much more contact. At the special care and transitional care stages, youíll be allowed to bottle feed or breast feed your baby under the watchful eyes of specially trained neonatal nurses. This ensures that someone is nearby in case something goes wrong while youíre handling the baby.

All in all, itís very unlikely that your baby will spend time in neonatal care. Itís good to be prepared, though, and you should definitely ask about touring the neonatal section of your hospital before your delivery. Talk to your doctor as well about the possibilities of neonatal care, so that you can be prepared for anything that may arise.

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