Babies can be born early, small, or with a range of health problems. Medical care for newborn babies is called neonatal care, and is only provided in certain hospitals, as specially trained staff and medical equipment is needed. Although this is a stressful time, you are not alone as 1 in 9 babies born need extra care after birth.
This website is designed to give you information about neonatal care, your role as a parent of a premature or ill baby, and what help is available for your baby, you, and your family.
NHS Networks link hospitals together to make sure patients get the care they need, in the right place, as close to home as possible.
SWMN ODN links neonatal units together to make sure mothers and babies receive the care they need.
If your baby is born early, has a problem picked up during your pregnancy scans, or becomes ill during or after birth he or she will be transferred to the Neonatal Unit. The neonatal unit may be in the same hospital where you have given birth, or if you have given birth in a midwifery-led unit in a hospital nearby.
There are 3 types of neonatal unit providing different levels of care:
Provide the highest level of care to the smallest and sickest babies. For example babies that need breathing support from a ventilator, weigh less than 1000g, or are born before 27 weeks of pregnancy. Term babies with a problem with their heart, needing surgery, or who become very ill during or after birth may need intensive care.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Units are:
Provide a high level of care, but the babies are not so small or sick. Breathing support can be provided and other treatment such as intravenous fluids for babies too ill or small to feed by mouth.
The Local Neonatal Units are:
Provide care that cannot be given on a normal postnatal ward, including tube feeding, oxygen, treatment for jaundice or infection.
The Local Neonatal Units are:
Most hospitals have a transitional care unit, where babies who need special care are cared for by their mothers, with the support of nurses and midwives. Babies born between 34 and 36 weeks, slightly small, or with other problems such as feeding, or needing antibiotics for infection are often cared for on Transitional Care, rather than a standard postnatal ward. Sometimes if your baby has been on the Neonatal Unit you may spend some time caring for your baby on Transitional care before you go home, this is a good idea, especially if your baby is learning to breastfeed.
Babies needing surgery or with a heart problem, will be cared for on a Neonatal Unit to begin with but then transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. In rare circumstances where there is no cot available, your baby may be transferred to another hospital. Some babies will return to the Neonatal Unit for care before they go home.
Not all Neonatal Units have the facilities needed to care for the sickest and smallest babies. If your baby needs more care than can be provided in your local neonatal unit he or she will be transferred to the closest available neonatal unit with the right facilities.
When your baby no longer needs these specialist facilities, he or she will be transferred back to your local neonatal unit or to another unit closer to home.