When You Know You’ll Need The NICU

There are many reasons why you know in advance that your baby may need the NICU. Such as, going into spontaneous early labour, early delivery because of conditions such as pre-eclampsia or your baby may require surgery after birth or have a diagnosed genetic condition.


You may have found out as early as your 12 week scan that your baby may require medical intervention at birth or your waters may have broken, and you have been given medication to prevent contractions and help prevent infection.


In some cases, you may have received results of a positive foetal fibronectin result, so the likelihood of early delivery may be imminent.


For others, admission to the NICU may be a complete shock at the point of delivery.


Perhaps your initial question is ‘what is the NICU?’ Not everyone has heard of a neonatal unit and what it offers or even what it does.


There are many medical abbreviations such as neonatal intensive care unit, high dependency unit (HDU) and special care baby unit (SCBU).


Units are graded based on the level of medical care provided and the gestation of babies can be cared for at that unit.


Depending on your circumstances you may be transferred to another hospital who can better meet the needs of you and your baby. Your care team will go through this with you.


If you’re reading this page and you have found us because you know your baby or babies will need NICU care, we’d love you to read the following to help you navigate those early days.


  1. Take a deep breath, you can’t process all of this in one go, there’s an awful lot of information to take in
  2. If you can, write down any questions you may have; use a piece of paper or even your phone. No question is too silly or irrelevant. This is your baby and your family.
  3. If you need to go over something again, just ask
  4. If you can, have someone with you when your care team is talking to you. You may pick up and process different bits of information which can help you make decisions
  5. Don’t worry if no one has the answer you’re looking for, as much as we all want to hear the words ‘everything is going to be ok’, the reality is no one knows what’s going to happen


We’ve got you.


We have a dedicated support system that contains mums who are about to enter the NICU like yourself, mums currently experiencing their NICU journey and veteran mums who have long since said goodbye to walking through those double doors. Even parents who have had 1 day in the unit have just as many valuable insights to those who stayed for many months or even a year.

You can read about our peer support here.

If you can, visit the neonatal unit, ask the staff to show you around, to familiarise yourself with the equipment, noises and the surroundings where your baby is going to be. Ask the staff to show you equipment that will become familiar to you and ask about the daily routine on the ward. You can also look at our NICU Jargon Buster if you feel you need to, it contains plenty of phrases you may hear on the ward by doctors and nurses.


Take time to re-evaluate your birth plan. If your birth plan has deviated due to medical necessity, ask to sit with your doctors and midwife and discuss options with them to make you as comfortable as possible whether it is listening to music during the birth or prior to general anaesthetic or for your partner to tell you the gender of your baby. You are still able to have some control and incorporate your wishes, where possible.


Lastly, whilst we know you just want someone to tell you it will be okay… we also know we can’t give you the answer you’re looking for. But, we will do our best to make sure you and your family are as supported as much as possible, for as long as you need us.

Facts & Figures

79% of parents said a neonatal stay affected their mental health

Leo’s saw a 337% increase in need due to COVID-19

Did you know, reading to your baby in the NICU helps their development?

Leo's Neonatal

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