Why Do Babies Need a NICU Stay?
Cook Children's is one of the only medical centers in the region with a Level IV NICU. We care for patients from all over Tarrant County and North Texas. Our award-winning medical transport brings patients from other parts of Texas and neighboring states.
If you've been told that your baby will require immediate transfer to a NICU, we can help you prepare and learn what to expect. Your baby may need NICU care if:
- They were diagnosed during pregnancy with a life-threatening condition
- You're at risk of a preterm birth
Our neonatal specialists care for babies with a spectrum of conditions, from common to rare. We are nationally recognized for our ability to care for babies born as early as 23 weeks, as well as preemies and full-term babies who need care after delivery.
Why choose Cook Children's for NICU care?
As a Level IV NICU, we're equipped to care for newborns with the most complicated medical conditions. Our neonatal physicians and surgeons are available 24/7 to deliver any type of care a patient needs, including surgery. We offer specialized care for:
Abdominal wall defects (gastroschisis and omphalocele)
When a baby's abdominal wall doesn't develop normally in the womb it can lead to gastroschisis or omphalocele. The abdominal organs and intestines push through the opening and grow outside the baby's body. Surgeons can repair these conditions after your baby is born.
Congenital heart defects
Heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. Today we can diagnose many congenital heart defects with a fetal echocardiogram before your baby is born. This helps you prepare for treatment with our team of neonatal cardiac specialists.
We offer all types of cardiac care for infants, including cardiac surgery by our pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons. Our neonatologists and cardiac nurses deliver round-the-clock care.
Congenital hyperinsulinism is the most common reason for low blood sugar in infants. It's a rare disorder, but it can be severe. Without proper treatment, children are at risk of seizures and permanent brain damage.
Some hyperinsulinism symptoms are present at birth (genetic), while others appear later (transient). Transient forms can resolve in a few days or weeks. Some babies with this type need only frequent intravenous glucose feedings. Children with more severe conditions may require surgery, ongoing treatment or both.
Cook Children's is world-renowned for our congenital hyperinsulinism care in the NICU. We were among the first pediatric medical centers to be named a Center of Excellence for treating this condition. We are also one of only a few medical centers in the world with this designation.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
IUGR is a condition in which a baby is not growing at the normal rate in the womb. They are not as big as they should be based on the pregnancy stage. Delayed growth can cause problems during pregnancy or delivery, and after birth.
IUGR can be:
- Symmetrical, where all parts of the baby's body are similar in size
- Asymmetrical, where a baby's head and brain are the expected size, but their body is smaller
We offer the most advanced treatments for respiratory conditions in newborns. Many babies born early do not have a fully developed respiratory system and need help breathing. Our respiratory therapists provide children with specialized therapies, including mechanical ventilation and other breathing assistance.
We are also the only NICU in Tarrant County with ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation). This therapy treats extremely sick babies who cannot breathe well enough to get oxygen to their blood and expel carbon dioxide. It is common in babies with:
- Congenital diaphragmatic hernia
- Meconium aspiration syndrome
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension
- Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS in newborns)
Additional care at Cook Children's
We can work with you and your obstetrician if you have a pregnancy-related condition that increases preterm birth risks. Conditions that may result in your baby needing a NICU stay include:
- Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is a condition that causes insulin resistance and high blood sugar (glucose) during pregnancy. Your body is naturally more resistant to insulin when you're pregnant, as it provides glucose to nourish your growing baby. If your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with high blood sugar levels, the situation can become dangerous for both you and your baby. For most women, this condition is not permanent, and blood sugar returns to normal after delivery.
- HELLP syndrome: This rare pregnancy complication affects the blood and liver. It includes hemolysis, the breakdown of red blood cells; elevated liver enzymes that impact liver function; and low platelet counts that could put you at higher risk of premature delivery and excessive bleeding. HELLP syndrome is more common in women with preeclampsia but can happen on its own.
- High-risk pregnancy: Having a high-risk pregnancy means you're more likely to deliver early or experience complications during pregnancy. Examples of a high-risk pregnancy include carrying multiples (twins, triplets, quadruplets) or having preexisting health conditions. There are many factors that can make a pregnancy high risk. Your obstetrician can help you understand if you should see one of our specialists.
- Incompetent cervix: This occurs when the baby puts pressure on the cervix, causing it to open before the baby is fully developed. This uncommon condition can lead to premature delivery.
- Placenta previa: In this condition, the placenta develops low in the uterus, close to or on top of the cervix. It can completely or partially cover the cervical opening. Placenta previa may occur from scar tissue in the uterus from prior C-section deliveries, dilation and curettage procedures, or other surgeries.
- Placental abruption: This happens when the placenta separates from the uterine lining before birth. It interrupts the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Doctors can check for signs of placental abruption with blood tests, ultrasound and other fetal monitoring. But sometimes doctors can't know for sure until after the baby is born and they examine the placenta.
- Preeclampsia: This condition causes high blood pressure and liver or kidney damage during pregnancy. Preeclampsia typically starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can happen even if your blood pressure was normal prior to getting pregnant. Your doctor should monitor your blood pressure regularly throughout your pregnancy.
- Premature rupture of membranes (PROM): This condition happens when the amniotic sac ruptures before labor. PROM is often the result of an infection in the uterus. It accounts for about 25 to 30 percent of all preterm births.
You have a choice where to go for NICU care
If you give birth early or have complications before, during or after birth, your doctor may refer your baby to a NICU for care. You can go to the NICU where your doctor refers you. Or you can choose to go to any NICU you prefer. If you choose Cook Children's, ask your doctor for a referral or contact us about a transfer.
We're here to help
- If you are an expectant parent and your baby has been diagnosed with a condition that will require a NICU stay, watch a video tour of our Level IV NICU.
- If you are at risk of a preterm birth and your baby may need NICU care, call us at 855-687-6428.
- If your baby is currently at another NICU facility and you'd like a second opinion, contact our on-call physician at 682-885-3901.