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A special place for the tiniest patients

January 25, 2018 | UCI Health
mother cuddling her preemie baby in nicu

For many women with high-risk pregnancies, carrying the baby for a full 40 weeks may be impossible.

In some cases the baby may come early due to preterm labor. In others, the perinatologists may decide that delivering the baby early is the safest choice for both mother and child.

Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

Premature babies and those who need ongoing medical care stay in a specialized facility called the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU at UC Irvine Medical Center is one of the most advanced in the region.

A Level III unit, the NICU meets the most rigorous standards set by the state, and it is capable of caring for infants born as early as 23 weeks gestation.

A ‘petite suite’ for the smallest

For these tiniest of preemies, the unit has a section designated the “petite suite.”

“When babies are born extremely premature — before 28 weeks — they can face many challenges and they need constant specialized care,” says UCI Health obstetrician Dr. Jennifer Jolley.

“Their lungs may not be fully mature, so they need respiratory support. They have a risk for a brain bleed that could lead to neurodevelopmental delays and have an increased risk for other complications with other organs.”

Support for parents

For any baby staying in the NICU, safety and support is paramount to all — and that includes parents and loved ones.

The 45-bed facility, which is staffed around the clock by dedicated primary care nursing teams, has private rooms where parents can visit 24 hours a day and sit in special “kangaroo” chairs that allow parents to hold their infant with skin-to-skin contact.

View a photo gallery of the UCI Health NICU ›

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