Most hospitals with labor and delivery capabilities are equipped to stabilize critical newborns, but not all hospitals can provide continuous care to this special population. In a hospital that is incapable of caring for these sick babies, they must rely on outside facilities to come and transport the infant to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
What affect does this have on the infant and parents?
Studies show that physical and emotional connection between newborns and their parents is very important for development, especially in preterm infants. Preterm infants that do not have sufficient interactions with their parents show delays in emotional and cognitive development, as well as long term health consequences1. A mother separated from her infant is also at a higher risk for postpartum depression, which can lead to maternal stress and anxiety.
Is there a need for hospitals with maternity wards to push to keep some of these critical infants?
Some hospitals are now working towards keeping preterm infants, rather than transferring them, by offering a little more support to keep infants with their mothers. The clinical community is actively studying the benefits of keeping these two vulnerable populations together, while hospital systems assess the quality of care smaller facilities can provide for preterm infants.
How can healthcare professionals help?
Helping new parents is one of the best ways to provide better care for your patients. The importance of proximity during the earliest stage of life should not be underestimated. There are many ways to bring parents closer to their newborn, even if they've been transferred to a separate facility or are in the NICU.
What is your advice on helping new parents? How could the system be improved? Share with your coworkers or friends and see what they think!
—Tiphany Trout BSHCA, RRT, RRT-NPS, RRT-SDS
1. Flacking, R., Lehtonen, L., Thomson, G., Exelin, A., Ahlqvist, S., Moran, V. H., . . . Dykes, F. (2012). Closeness and Separation in Neonatal Intensive Care. Acta Paediatrica, 1032-1037.