Babies Born Too Soon

For parents, the single greatest experience is childbirth. It is a marvel because no woman knows for certain when she is going to deliver or what will cause her to go into labor. Every woman has an expectation of a healthy pregnancy, but a routine pregnancy can become a high-risk pregnancy without notice.

About 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely: born before 37 weeks of pregnancy and before they have time to gain weight and fully develop their lungs. When babies are born too soon, they need help breathing, eating, staying warm and maintaining their blood pressure. They also require the watchful eyes of highly trained neonatologists and nurses who know how to help tiny infants grow.

Level II Special Care Nursery

In 2006, Meritus Medical Center opened a Level II Special Care Nursery to care for babies born as early as 32 weeks. Since then, more than 300 babies each year remain with their families and no longer need to be transferred to another hospital 75 miles away.

Dr. Zia Uddin examines a newborn.
Dr. Zia Uddin examines a newborn.

“We care for these babies in their own community and in a hospital with great patient outcomes,” says Zia Uddin, M.D., neonatologist. Because of the special care nursery, mothers and fathers can hold their babies anytime, develop an emotional and physical bond and keep the entire family intact.

In the special care nursery, one of eight board-certified neonatologists provides around-the-clock care to premature newborns. Neonatologists and neonatal nurses carefully monitor babies throughout their stay until infants are able to breathe and maintain body temperature without extra support, feed by mouth and increase their body weight. The multidisciplinary team also includes respiratory therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, lactation consultants and social workers—all trained in newborn care.

Family-centered care

“When a baby is unstable, all the things that parents held in their dreams—holding their baby and breastfeeding—can’t happen right away,” says Chris Moats, RN, special care nursery nurse.

The special care nursery nurses spend time with parents moving them from feeling overwhelmed and scared to engaged and confident. Step-by-step, nurses educate parents on the technology and care needed to help their babies grow. “As their baby grows stronger, we give parents a few more responsibilities to care for their infant,” explains Chris.

Once discharged from the hospital, moms can often “board” for several days in available patient rooms to be close to their babies. An apartment adjacent to the special care nursery, allows parents to independently care for their infant prior to the baby’s discharge with the reassurance of nearby special care nursery nurses.

“Having access to a special care nursery is reassuring to parents,” “says Dr. Uddin. “We always hope for moms to have full-term, healthy babies, but we’re here for the unexpected.” November is Prematurity Awareness Month, a time to focus on reducing premature births and increasing access to prenatal care. If you’re expecting a baby, visit Meritus Medical Center’s family birthing center and special care nursery.