With two of my four children born premature, I am pretty stoked about a new report in Pediatrics – a medical journal about increasing survival rates among infants born premature. When women are pregnant they are constantly being evaluated for increased risk of premature labor and birth. Having an infant before the expected due date comes with risks, especially if the infant is born before it has had enough time in utero for full lung and organ development. I was lucky – my premature infants were released from the hospital without being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but not all premature infants are as lucky. The NICU care given to premature infants in the hospital can be the determining factor in premature infant survival.

What is NICU?
NICU is a specialized care unit on the maternity floor of the hospital. Infants born with special needs or premature often spend time under the constantly supervised care of the NICU nurses and on-call physicians. While my twins did not spend time in NICU, my first child did. She was admitted at birth due to lack of oxygen and low pulse ox levels and discharged five days later. 

How can a NICU affect infant survival rates?
The level of care an infant receives immediately after birth is extremely important to survival. According to the report published in Pediatrics, high-level units increased the chance of infant survival – so we need more high-level units to save more lives – it’s as simple as that!

High-level NICUs have access to specialized high-tech equipment and highly trained nurses and caregivers that other NICUs may not have. Previous studies claimed increased survival rates of up to 50%, but current studies put that number in the 300% range. 

Just because your infant is born premature doesn’t mean the survival of your infant has to be in jeopardy. With high-level NICUs and trained staffed, all premature infants – no matter when they are born – have an increased chance of survival.