What happens when a baby enters the NICU?

Q: What happens when a baby first enters the NICU?

A: There's a pretty standard protocol. First, the baby is placed on a warmer, an open flat bed with a heating element above it, to make sure her body temperature doesn't drop. Then she is hooked up to a heart monitor and the NICU doctors and nurses assess her respiratory status. She may need oxygen through her nose or a tube inserted into her throat to help her breathe. After that, doctors take blood and set her up with some form of intravenous food, fluid, or medicine through a vein or through the umbilical cord. Finally, when all of the baby's vital signs and blood test results are back from the hospital lab, the team creates a health plan for the baby.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2006. Updated 2009

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