Not all NICU babies are preemies
The wonderful DiscoveryHealth NICU series (Thursdays at 10 PM ET/PT) has brought to light the intensity and reality of the struggles premature babies and their families face. But babies born full term can be in the NICU, too, especially if they are sick or have a birth defect and need specialized treatment.
Some babies are born with an abdominal wall defect such as gastroschisis or omphalocele. These often require surgery or staged repair over time. Some babies have heart defects that also require monitoring or surgery. Other babies may qualify as full term (over 37 completed weeks) but have failed to thrive and have a low birthweight. Other conditions that might require a stay in the NICU include: anemia (low number of red blood cells in the blood), apnea (breathing irregularity), bradycardia (abnormal slowing of the heart rate), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (a form of chronic lung disease), hydrocephalus (water on the brain), sepsis (infection that spreads throughout the body).
All of us with preemies are acutely aware of these intensive care services, but we need to realize that the wonderful staff of the NICU need to be prepared for any baby, any size, any gestational age, any complication. Thank goodness they are there for all of us.