What is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?

A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides specialized care and monitoring for premature or ill newborns.

When do babies need the NICU?

Babies may be admitted to an NICU if:

  • They are born prematurely
  • They are diagnosed with a health condition or abnormality “in utero” (during pregnancy)
  • Problems occur during or immediately after delivery
  • They shows signs of a health problem in the first few days after birth

What are the differences between NICU levels?

There are four levels of NICUs, each staffed and equipped to care for different levels of newborn needs, as follows:

  • Level I: Regular nursery care available at most hospitals that deliver babies, for healthy and low-risk newborns; also known as “well-baby nurseries”
  • Level II: Intensive care for premature and sick newborns who are stable or moderately ill
  • Level III: Comprehensive care for more seriously ill newborns, including sustained life support and prompt, readily available access to a full range of pediatric subspecialists for treatment of medical or surgical conditions
  • Level IV: The highest level of neonatal care available for treatment of the most premature and critically ill newborns, including 24/7 availability of a full range of pediatric medical and surgical subspecialists and pediatric anesthesiologists for major surgery