The birth process can be stressful for all mothers and babies, but for a premature infant, leaving the mother's womb may be life-threatening. With newly redesigned Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), New York City public hospitals are making sure the most sensitive preemies have the warm and gentle environment they need to grow and thrive.
Dim lighting is the first thing you notice as you enter the NICU at Queens Hospital Center. It's quiet too, and if noise levels rise, the sound monitor flashes warnings to the staff to lower their voices. These are signs of HHC’s new $3 million NICU redesign and Developmental Care Initiative in action. Queens is the first HHC hospital to fully incorporate the new upgrades that mimic the nurturing environment of the mother’s womb and reduce the stress of the NICU experience for premature babies. Every HHC NICU will be retrofitted with new high tech incubators and monitoring devices to control light, noise and ambient temperature, improving a preemie’s ability to wean from oxygen support, reach desirable weight and be discharged from the hospital sooner.
"We want to improve the quality of care and health outcomes of the littlest New Yorkers," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "Loud noises and bright lights interrupt babies sleep patterns and interfere with the healing and normal development that occurs during sleep. With care that eliminates external stimuli, premature babies feed on their own more quickly, go home sooner and have better short and long-term outcomes."
HHC’s 11 hospitals treat a disproportionate number of New York City’s high-risk pregnancies. Last year, of more than 23,000 babies born in New York City public hospitals, nearly 24% - more than 5,500 babies - were born prematurely or otherwise required treatment in the NICUs.
"The number of at-risk pregnancies continues to climb, increasing the risk of preterm birth. The redesign ensures that all HHC NICUs are the best facilities for at-risk mothers-to-be and their infants in New York City," said Dr. Ivan Hand, Director of Neonatology, Queens Hospital Center.
In addition to eliminating harmful external stimuli, HHC’s new Developmental Care Initiative also encourages breastfeeding, and offers training and education to new parents.
"My daughter was born the day after Christmas, but she was expected to arrive on April 13th," said Juwana Husbands, mother of Toni Simone, who weighed 1 lb-6 ounces at birth. "Thankfully, we went to the right place with people that really cared. Although it was hard for me at first, the staff was patient and explained everything to help me feel comfortable and confident in my daughter’s future. Today Toni weighs over 7 lbs."