Local Maternity System

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Labour and birth

Neonatal care

03CBEE63-9194-491C-ABB2-45F97686D6FBIn its first 28 days of life your baby is a newborn also known as a neonate.

Neonatal care is the type of care a baby born prematurely or sick in some way receives in a neonatal unit. Neonatal Units are a part of hospitals which provide care for babies who are born prematurely (before 37 weeks’ gestation), with a medical condition which needs treatment, or at a low birthweight.

Having a baby (or babies) taken to neonatal care can be worrying, but the staff looking after your baby should make sure you receive all the information, communication and support you need.

Not all hospitals provide specialist neonatal services, and there are different levels of care available depending on how ill or early your baby is, so your baby may be transferred to another hospital if they need special care.

Information is also available on the NHS website here.

Different types of neonatal care

Special Care (baby) Unit (SCU/SCBU) – also referred to as a Level 1 unit

For babies who need support with the most straightforward care. This may include minimal breathing support, help with feeding, treatment for jaundice and/or additional monitoring of heart rate and breathing. These units also provide care for babies continuing to recover from specialist care in other neonatal units and will support discharge to home at the right time.

The majority of babies will be born after 32 weeks gestation and weighing more than 1000 grams. If you have a twin pregnancy these babies will need to be over 34 weeks gestation to deliver in a level 1 unit. Higher multiples, for example triplets, will be delivered in a higher level unit.

Local Neonatal Unit (LNU) – also referred to as a Level 2 unit

Babies who need a higher level of medical and nursing support than that provided in a low dependency unit are cared for here. If your baby was or is expected to be born between 27 and 32 weeks’ gestation you may be transferred to an LNU.

Care on an LNU might include:

  • Breathing support given through their windpipe (called ventilation)
  • Short-term intensive care
  • Care during short periods where they stop breathing (called apnoea)
  • ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ (called CPAP) or ‘high flow therapy’ for breathing support
  • Feeding through a drip in their vein (called parenteral nutrition)
  • Cooling treatment for babies who have had difficult births or are unwell soon after birth (before being transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit)
  • Helping babies who become unwell soon after birth for any reason.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – also referred to as a Level 3 unit

This is the level of care for babies with the highest need for support. Often these babies will have been born before 27 weeks’ gestation, or be very unwell after birth.

You might have been transferred to a different hospital which has a NICU before your baby was born. This is usually because the staff feel your baby would benefit from this level of care, and we know it is safer to transfer your baby before they are born.

Babies are cared for here when they:

  • Need breathing support given through their windpipe (called ventilation)
  • Have severe disease affecting their breathing (called respiratory disease)
  • Need or have just had surgery
  • At a neonatal intensive care unit, all levels of care may also be given to babies from the local area.
2019-07-03 (7)

Your baby is now officially an embryo and is about the size of a poppy seed.

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/4-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

2019-07-03 (4)

Your baby is now the size of a kidney bean and weighs 1g. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/8-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

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Welcome to the second trimester!

Your baby is about the size of a small lime and weighs approximately 14g.

You have hopefully seen your midwife for your 'booking in' appointment, if you have not yet seen a midwife please make an appointment quickly, so you can have all of your choices about screening tests explained and offered to you.

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/12-weeks-pregnant/ for more information. You can also link to the 'Pregnancy Journey' area here.  


Your baby is about the size of an avocado and weighs approximately 100g. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/16-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

2019-07-03 (2)

Your baby has grown in length and is now the length of a small banana and weighs approximately 300g. Around this time you will be offered your '20 week' scan, also known as the 'anatomy' or 'anomaly' scan.Click here for more information about screening. 

This is a also a good time to talk and sing to your bump as your baby can now hear sounds. This is great way for you and your partner/family to bond with your baby.

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/20-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

2019-07-03 (8)

Your baby has grown again to the approximate length of an ear of sweetcorn and weighs about 600g. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/24-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

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Welcome to the third trimester!

Your baby is now approximately the weight of an aubergine; about 1kg and approximately 37cm in length. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/28-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

2019-07-03 (3)

Your baby now weighs approximately the same as a coconut; around 1.5kg. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/32-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

2019-07-03 (5)

Your baby is now around the same size as a lettuce, approximately 47cm long and weighs around 2.6kg. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/36-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.

2019-07-03 (9)

Your baby is now the weight of a small watermelon which is approximately 3.3kg and around 50cm in length. 

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/40-weeks-pregnant/ for more information.