What Parents Need to Know about the NICU
Transfer of the Baby to Another Hospital
Many hospitals deliver enough babies and possess the skills to care for about 98 percent of the babies they deliver, yet some sick babies require transfer to a specialized facility for care. This may occur by ground ambulance or helicopter. If your child is transferred, you should be given a packet of information about the hospital where your baby will be. This should include phone numbers and contact people at the new hospital.
Speaking with the Baby’s Doctor
When you speak with the doctor caring for your baby, you should be direct with him or her about your fears. Even when parents don’t ask the question, most are silently thinking their baby may die. Depending on their anxiety, parents may think this even when the problem is relatively minor. Survival even in the most serious cases has been improving over the past few years. Ask the doctor about your child’s risk of death and get this out in the open.
The second most common fear is that the baby will be handicapped. For most conditions, the usual outcome is for the child to grow and develop normally, yet it varies from baby to baby. You must ask your doctor about your child’s specific outcome. Sometimes the doctor cannot say with certainty what will occur. For many parents this uncertainty is the worst part of the problem.
Will This Happen Again?
Finally, some families think that a difficult pregnancy, delivery, or first few days for the baby is a rare occurrence unlikely to recur. Unfortunately, once you have had a complicated pregnancy, you may be at higher risk for the same or a different complication with the next pregnancy. For example, your risk of having an infant with a birth defect is about two percent; however, having one infant with a birth defect more than doubles your risk (to about five percent) of having another baby with the same or a different birth defect. Numerous factors may affect your risk of having an infant with a birth defect. Ask your doctor about your specific risk.
Most infants hospitalized in the NICU do quite well, but it is still a highly stressful situation for parents. Finding someone in whom you can confide and asking enough questions to understand the situation are the two best ways to reduce your own stress. Spending time with your child even when he or she is sick can benefit you both.
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