Understand the Levels of Neonatal Care

The term “neonatal care” describes the specialised medical treatment given to newborns, especially those who are preterm, underweight, or have medical issues requiring special care.

Neonatal care units, also referred to as Neonatal intensive care units or intensive care nurseries are intensive care units dedicated to the care of premature or ill newborns. Immediate care at the time of birth includes cord clamping, thorough drying, assessment of breathing, skin-to-skin contact, and early initiation of breastfeeding.

Newborn care includes the following:

  • Immediate care
  • Thermal care
  • Breast milk feeding support
  • Resuscitation when required
  • Nurturing
  • Prevention of infection
  • Health problems assessments
  • Recognition and response to danger signs
  • Timely and safe referral if required

Levels of Neonatal Care

In case of premature birth or critically ill condition of the newborn, specialised treatments are performed, and newborns are kept in neonatal care levels.  Depending on the illness and severity, newborns are taken specialised care in particular levels of NICUs. A newborn’s medical issues, birth weight, and gestational age all influence the level of care they get. To guarantee the best possible outcome, medical personnel evaluate the newborn’s needs at delivery and place them in the appropriate level of care. The intention is to minimise the hazards of over- or under-treating neonates while simultaneously giving them the necessary care.

There are four levels of neonatal care:

Level I: Well born nursery

Level II: Special care nursery

Level III: Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

Level IV: Regional neonatal intensive care unit

Let’s know about all these four levels one by one:

Level I (Well born nursery): Infants receiving this level of care are healthy, full-term babies who have no complications. They receive standard newborn healthcare facilities, and postnatal care, which includes feeding, washing, and monitoring for common problems like jaundice. If any unanticipated complications arise, the babies may be moved to a higher-level facility for specialised care.

Level II (Special care nursery): Infants born between 32 and 37 weeks gestation may have mild to moderate health problems that don’t require critical care and thus are treated under level II neonatal care. Common disorders treated at this stage are moderate jaundice, feeding issues, and neonatal respiratory distress. The personnel in these facilities have received training in giving these babies extra supervision, assistance, and neonatal medical equipment knowledge.

Level III (Neonatal intensive care unit): This level of neonatal care is for full-term infants with serious medical conditions or premature infants born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. Specialised medical equipment and staff, such as neonatologists, neonatal nurses, and respiratory therapists, are available in NICUs to care for critically ill newborns. Severe respiratory distress, infections, congenital anomalies, and extremely low birth weight are among the conditions treated in a Level III NICU.

Level IV (Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit): These units have advanced resources, including surgical capabilities to manage complex medical conditions. Level IV NICUs are regional referral centres that offer the highest level of care for the sickest and most premature infants. Level IV NICUs accept transfers of the most difficult cases and frequently cover a larger geographic region.

Medical professionals working or pursuing a PG in Pediatrics specialty can enhance their knowledge and skill set by enrolling in the Pediatrics MD online course and online pediatrics resources. A good online PG Pediatrics course for doctors will benefit them in learning about all the concepts at their own pace along with keeping yourself updated with the recent advancements in the field. The real-life case scenarios and experiences shared by the eminent pediatrician during video lectures and chat shows multifold the benefits of the online Pediatrics course for aspiring pediatricians.

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