NICU Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Most terms of pregnancy last about 40 weeks. By definition, a premature birth takes place more than three weeks before the actual due date. Premature births can occur between 8-10% of all pregnancies in the United States. The risks of these births vary, depending on how soon an infant is born. However, the survival rate is possible for infants born as early as 23-26 weeks. With premature infants being born too early, they may have health problems... ***Some of health problems can include: * * * * * Difficulty breathing Episodes of stopped breathing (apnea) Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) Fluid accumulation in the brain (hydrocephalus) Cerebral palsy and other neurological problems * * * * * Vision problems Intestinal problems Developmental delays Learning disabilities Hearing problems ***Less serious complications may include: * Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) * Decreased number of red blood cells (anemia) * Low blood pressure Why the need for OT? Occupational therapy helps infants in the NICU to become independent and maximize their performance abilities to participate in their everyday “occupations” such as: *Sleeping *Feeding *Interaction with parents and caregivers *Use of eye and hand coordination *Positioning for muscle stimulation and development *Education of parents for home going The NICU population includes infants who are acutely ill or premature, and who are often unstable, fragile and easily compromised by environmental conditions. Their primary "occupations" include sleeping, feeding, interacting with their parents and caregivers and use of their eyes and hands to explore their environment. OT in the NICU helps protect these fragile babies from excessive or inappropriate sensory aspects of the environment, and assists the family in fostering optimal development for their baby. That includes the development of age-appropriate occupations (i.e., feeding), sensorimotor processes, caregiver-child bonding, and neurobehavioral organization. To help foster an infant's neuromotor development (how the brain and muscles work together) occupational therapists assist with optimal positioning of the infant in the isolette and/or crib as well as educating caregivers in supportive ways to hold the infant, including "Kangaroo Care." Occupational therapists might also fabricate special supports in the form of splints to help manage muscle tone or range of motion. OT plays a very important role with the premature infant's sensory system and their ability to organize and regulate the stimuli in the world around them. Often these babies have a difficult time adjusting to being outside the womb. Occupational therapists assist these infants with regulating touch, sound, and light. Occupational therapy and Speech therapy work together as a feeding team in Duke's NICU. Feeding is not just about the infant being able to eat enough food to get the nutrients they need to grow. Occupational therapy focuses on the quality of the feeding skills, which includes suckswallow-breathe coordination and the ability for an infant to maintain a calm organized state during a feed. Helpful sites: Aota.org Neonatology.com Oota.org For newborns Hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are designed to provide round-the-clock care for premature babies and full-term babies who develop problems after birth.