Most parents-to-be don’t plan for their baby to need additional care once they’re born, but experts in pregnancy care say it’s best to be prepared.
There’s a lot to consider in the planning process, and deciding whether to give birth at a hospital with access to advanced care is one of those decisions.
Sanford Children’s Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides the latest medical, physical and emotional care for critically ill babies and their families.
“Sometimes moms may get news during pregnancy — or maybe during a delivery — that they were not expecting,” said Sonya LaMont, RN, a Sanford Women’s pregnancy navigator.
Level 4 rated NICU
LaMont said that’s where access to the NICU comes in at Sanford Health, recognized with the highest designation for newborn care.
“Sanford is able to provide all of those extras for the unknown or the unplanned,” she added.
The Boekelheide Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a member of the National Institute of Health’s Neonatal Research Network — one of only 15 sites in the country.
Babies in the NICU need specialized care that is different from the care provided to pediatric and adult patients. We offer specialized equipment and providers trained to give the highest level of care to our youngest and tiniest patients. The NICU cares for all newborns in need of specialized care. Patients include babies born prematurely before 37 weeks of pregnancy, high-risk births and infants born with health conditions that need expert care and management.
All family rooms offer privacy and are each equipped with a Giraffe OmniBed for critically ill and premature babies.
After baby is born, in most cases, a parent can be with baby in the NICU at any time.
To obtain a Level 4 rating, a NICU needs to have experience caring for the most complex and critically ill newborns.
LaMont said of the most common “unexpected” scenarios is pre-term delivery.
“It has been a normal, healthy pregnancy and everything is going well and then, unexpectedly, the mother’s water breaks, contractions begin and providers cannot stop the labor process,” LaMont said. “Right around the corner is the NICU team with that extra equipment and care.”
Staff in a Level 4 NICU includes an in-house neonatologist which is a pediatrician with additional training to specialize in caring for premature and sick infants.
Quick transport for baby
If a mom is not yet at the hospital to deliver the baby, another factor to consider when planning ahead is the ability to access care quickly in more critical situations.
For example, Sanford AirMed has coverage 24/7 with maternal and neonatal flight teams for patients needing advanced care every day of the year.
Sanford’s network is spread out across roughly 250,000 square miles, which can make labor and delivery difficult for rural patients.
“It’s nice to highlight that even if you’re living in a rural community, (AirMed) still can be there for you. They still could fly out to whatever hospital you deliver in and are still there in a moment’s notice if you need that,” said Sanford program specialist Kerri Heckman, RN.
In addition to the flight crew, the Sanford AirMed in-flight care team includes nurses, paramedics who can transport mom and baby to the hospital.
“It’s a quick phone call to the flight team saying, ‘We have a baby our doctor wants to transport that is beyond our level of care,’” LaMont said. “It’s a very quick flight and they’re always updating us on where they are.”
Plan for the unexpected
It is around-the-clock care with highly trained staff that is designed to keep babies and parents together.
“Sometimes it is seconds and minutes that matter,” Heckman said. “Obviously, you never want to be in that position to have to have those resources, but it is comforting to know that you don’t have to sit around and wait and worry. ‘Are they coming? Can this team take care of this?’ I think helps just ease your thought process and, and know that what you need is here already.”
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