Your womb is a bespoke incubator for your baby so if your little one is born early they may need to spend time in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The latter has a higher staff to baby ratio for those that need extra attention.
Babies born pre-term will have missed out on crucial time in the womb and need an environment that replicates the warm, sterile conditions of your body. They may need help with feeding if sucking reflexes are not strong and some babies need help breathing. Staff will monitor other needs such as blood pressure and heart rate and this supervision can require high-tech machinery.
It can be distressing for a parent to see their newborn surrounded by lots of equipment but remember that although noisy and bewildering, your baby is in the best place, surrounded by a medical team intent on providing the best possible care. Staff share your goal, to get baby strong and healthy enough to go home with you.
As well as medical expertise premature babies also need your love, and staff will be happy to show you how you can become involved in their care. Many neonatal units in the UK will provide you with a DVD called Small Wonders which you can watch with your health care professional or alone. You can watch the films online or in the free Baby Buddy app.
Multiples – 37 weeks is considered full term for twins but many are born before this. Although lack of space in the womb may be a contributing factor the placenta(s) struggling to keep up with demand can also be an issue. In singleton and multiple pregnancies cervical, vaginal or urine infections can also play a part. The charity TAMBA (Twins and Multiple Births Association) has a huge range of information, advice and support for families with, or preparing for, multiples.
Visit SCBU – If you have a higher risk pregnancy and are aware your baby or babies may need a little extra care when born, you might like to visit the Special Care Baby Unit before they arrive. Familiarising yourself with the environment can remove some of your fear. Speak with staff who, though busy, will want to reassure you.