Premature Babies: Hospital Care Explained

by Mother & Baby Team |

Don’t get confused by jargon used by health professionals when talking about your premature baby’s care. We’ve got a simple guide to the medical terminology

Now your baby is here, understanding the care your baby needs from the hospital is important but hearing a lot of abbreviations from hospital staff can leave you in a bit of a spin, particularly if you have a premature baby.

We break down all the baby care terminology and explain what it all means for you and your baby.

Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

If your baby is born with serious complications or is born very premature, (from 26-35 weeks), you may find your baby is transferred to the neonatal intensive care.

This is the highest level of care and is for the smallest and sickest babies.

NICUs can offer your baby the entire range of neonatal care. If your baby has had major surgery, they will spend some time recovering in the NICU after their operation.

Local neonatal unit

Your baby could be transferred to a local neonatal unit if he is unwell but not considered critical. These units still provide sophisticated care but the babies are not as ill as those in the NICU.

Babies weighing less than 1kg are sometimes cared for in a local neonatal unit even if they are relatively strong.

The local neonatal unit can provide continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) for breathing support, and can look after babies who need their breathing to be stimulated. Your baby can also receive intravenous (IV) or tube feeding in the local neonatal unit.

Special care baby unit (SCBU)

If your baby is born needing some support or observation but is otherwise strong, they will be transferred to the special care baby unit. This level of care is sometimes referred to as ‘low dependency’.

The special care baby unit can offer your baby some kinds of tube feeding, oxygen, and phototherapy (light treatment) for jaundice.

Special care is also for babies who need to have their breathing or heartbeat monitored. The unit can provide some intensive care in an emergency but not for longer periods.

Transitional care

If your premie is in transitional care, it means your baby still has some needs but is almost ready to go home.

But most importantly the mother becomes the main carer with support from a nursery nurse or other staff on the unit.

The staff at your hospital will always advise you if there is something you are unsure of and will offer the support you need, as well as all the care your baby needs.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us