All the baby's body systems must work together in a new way after birth. Sometimes, a baby has difficulty making the transition. Health assessments, including the Apgar test performed after birth (at 1 minute, and again at 5 minutes), can help determine if a baby is doing well or having problems.
If there are signs the baby is not doing well, treatment can begin right away in the delivery room. The doctor and other members of the healthcare team work together to help the baby clear excess fluid and begin breathing.
Babies who may have difficulty at birth include those born prematurely, those who experienced a difficult delivery,and those with birth defects. Maternal illness, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and infection, can also lead to problems after birth. Fortunately for these babies, special care is available. Newborn babies who need intensive medical attention are often admitted into a special area of the hospital called the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The NICU combines advanced technology and trained healthcare professionals to provide specialized care for the tiniest patients. NICUs may also have intermediate or continuing care areas for babies who are not as sick but need specialized nursing care. Some hospitals do not have trained personnel or a NICU and babies may need to be transferred to another hospital.
Having a sick baby can be distressing. Few parents expect complications with pregnancy or their baby to be sick or premature. It is quite natural for parents to have many different emotions as they try to cope with the difficulties of a sick baby. But, it is reassuring that today's advanced technology is helping sick babies get better and go home sooner than ever before. And it helps to know that although separation from a baby is painful, it does not harm the relationship between the mother and baby.