I often hear about women choosing where they will give birth, based on the level of the NICU at a particular hospital.
I understand precaution. I am cautious and I take precautions. But I also know that the level of NICU care your baby may need is closely related to the amount of weeks’ gestation you are when you go into labor.
If you are healthy and experiencing a low risk pregnancy, choose a hospital where your birthing philosophy is accepted and will be supported.
Know that if you go into preterm labor and the facility you have chosen does not have a NICU that can support your newborn’s possible needs, you will be transferred to a hospital with a higher level NICU before you give birth.
Most people don’t understand what the different level NICU ratings mean.
The following is an explanation of the breakdown of each level:
Level 1 NICU: Basic Neonatal Care (Must be 35 weeks gestation to give birth at a level 1 facility)
· Patients who are scheduled to deliver at a level 1 hospital that go into labor prior to 35 weeks gestation will NOT be admitted and will be transferred to a higher level facility.
· Capable of providing neonatal resuscitation at delivery to babies born after 35 weeks gestation.
· Able to evaluate and care for healthy newborns.
· Capable of stabilizing infants born after 35 weeks who are ill while arranging for transfer.
Level 2 NICU: Neonatal Care/ Special Care Nursery (Must be 32 weeks gestation to give birth at a level 2 facility)
· Capable of caring for an infant who has apnea of prematurity, an inability to maintain their body temperature or is unable to take oral feedings; who is moderately ill with difficulties which are anticipated to resolve quickly or is recuperating from intensive care.
· Level 2A ~ Does NOT have the capability to provide mechanical ventilation for short periods.
· Level 2B ~ DOES have the capability to provide mechanical ventilation for short periods.
Level 3 NICU Advanced Specialty
· Level 3A ~ Has the capabilities to provide care for infants born at 28 week’s gestation. Able to provide sustained life support by means of mechanical ventilation and are able to perform minor surgical procedures.
· Level 3B ~ Has the capabilities to provide care for infants born with extremely low birth weights (1000g): equipped with advanced respiratory support as necessary. Access to on-site pediatric medical specialists. Able to perform major surgery.
· Level 3C ~ Equipped with all Level 3B capabilities and is located in a facility that is capable of providing advanced support for patients requiring heart/lung related surgeries.
Level 4 NICU Most Advanced
· Capable of caring for ill or preterm infants born as early as 22 weeks gestation.
· Can provide sophisticated types of respiratory care for premature or ill newborns and are able to provide a large variety of surgeries.
Authored by: Randy Patterson