Highly educated and experienced in the field of neonatology (the branch of medicine that deals with the care of newborn infants and the treatment of their diseases), the physicians and nurses of the Neonatal Intensive Care Program at Paoli Hospital provide personalized care to premature babies and other seriously ill newborns. The units are also staffed by respiratory therapists, social workers and pharmacists whose primary responsibilities are to provide care and services to babies. Accessibility to our Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), including special emergency transport, offers a vital lifeline to families living in the Philadelphia suburbs and surrounding areas.
It is important for parents to know that most problems of the premature or full-term, high-risk newborn are temporary and correctable. What they need is time: time for the premature newborn to develop immature body systems, and time for the high-risk newborn to overcome severe illness. For both, the NICU regimen is a 24-hour, day-by-day, intensive program to help them achieve these treatment goals.
The Premature Infant
When first admitted to the NICU, many premature babies may weigh two pounds or less. Because of minimal body fat and muscle tissue, or illness, they may not have the power to move vigorously and will lie in a limp position. They sleep more than full-term babies. This is not worrisome, for they need more rest, which is essential to their growth and development.
A full-term baby (born at 37 weeks gestation or more) already has developed life’s basic skills while still in the womb. Usually by the 35th week of the mother’s pregnancy, a fetus is able to swallow, grasp, move about and even cry. Premature babies have to be taught, that is, stimulated to do many of these things once they have gained the strength to do so.
Having come from a wet environment into dry air, the baby’s skin is dry and sometimes flaky. It is usually reddish in color but may also be jaundiced (have a yellow tint) due to a breakdown of red blood cells.
The High-Risk Newborn
Full-term babies admitted to the NICU generally must overcome an acute illness. They may suffer from infections, respiratory distress or low blood sugar. Common causes of respiratory distress are infection, inhalation of fetal waste into the lungs before or at the time of birth, or fluid in the lungs.
Complications from a delivery may result in an infant's needing the NICU. As with the premature baby, the high-risk newborn may experience jaundice.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.