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Neonatal Unit

Neonatal Unit: Making Sense of a New World

The neonatal unit can make even the most experienced parents feel out of their depth. The the sounds of the monitors and alarms and all the technical terms the staff use when referring to your baby are confusing and frightening. Within a period of days, you will get to know the monitor sounds and the alarms and will adjust yourself to cope with this noxious sensory input.

The medical terms may still have you worried, here are some common terms you will hear in the neonatal unit and what they mean:

Apnoea – a period when the breathing stops and oxygen saturation levels drop.

Bradycardia – slower than normal heart rate.

Chronic lung disease (CLD) – damaged lung tissue as a result of your baby breathing on a ventilator for a long time.

Hydrocephalus – increased amount of brain fluid (CSF) around the brain as a result of infection or the spinal fluid not being absorbed well.

Hypoglycaemia – abnormally low blood sugar.

Hypoxia – low levels of oxygen in the blood.

Intubate – inserting a narrow tube into your baby’s nose or mouth and down the trachea for help with breathing.

Jaundice – yellow colour of the body or whites of the eyes, due to the liver’s inability to process bilirubin, a substance produced as the red blood cells breakdown.

NG tube (Nasogastric tube) – a tube inserted into one nostril and down to the stomach for feeding.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) often called ‘Hyaline membrane disease’ – a common cause of respiratory problems where the lungs do not secrete sufficient surfactant, the substance that keeps the alveoli in the lungs from collapsing.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) – a visual problem caused by a problem with the developing blood supply to the retina due to too high levels of oxygen administered for prolonged periods.

If your baby has other problems in the neonatal unit, you will quickly learn the meaning of other terms too. Hang in there! We live in a time when advances in medical care can literally be miraculous. Wishing you and your little one the best health. 

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