September 24, 2009
Photos courtesy of R Bauman
If you're going to become a parent of multiples, you're going to hear about the NICU. That's pronounced nick-you and short for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. That's where newborn babies go when they need help and serves the same function as the Intensive Care Unit does for adults. It's a commonly used term among parents of multiples because multiples often spend time in the NICU due to being born prematurely.
NICU's have highly specialized equipment, and your local hospital may not have one. There doesn't seem to be an official list of hospitals with NICUs, but reports indicate 25 level II or III (Level III is the highest) NICUs are located in Tennessee hospitals, and Tennessee has five centers specializing in comprehensive care and surgery for newborns.
Having multiples doesn't guarantee you and your babies are going to be spending time in the NICU, but for every extra baby in that uterus, the odds go up. It's never a good idea to assume the worst, but the availability of a NICU should be a factor in deciding where you want to have your babies. If you live in the Nashville area, there are several hospitals with high quality NICUs to chose from.
- The Women's Hospital at Centennial has a 40 bed Level III NICU and boasts that their smallest survivor weighed 15 ounces.
- Baptist Hospital has a 52 bed Level III NICU.
- Vanderbilt actually has two NICUs. The Monroe Carroll Jr. Children's Hospital has a Level III NICU with 62 private rooms, and receives transfers from NICUs all over the southeast. The adjacent VU Medical Center has a 16 bed unit adjacent to Labor and Delivery for babies born at Vanderbilt and is merely a few hallways away from the Children's Hospital. Becca Hill, Tennessee's smallest surviving baby was born here.
- Nashville General has a 10 bed Level II NICU.
All told, middle Tennessee parents of multiples are very fortunate to have the high level of care available at several hospitals, and the best NICU in the southeastern U.S. at Vanderbilt.
Writers note: When my wife and I were expecting it seemed like everyone just assumed our twins would end up in the NICU, and I hated that. I don't want to join the ranks of the naysayers, but I do think it's a topic parents-to-be of multiples need to be informed on ahead of time. I do want to emphasize one more time that twins aren't an automatic ticket to the NICU. Also, NICU graduates turn out pretty well most of the time. Just to prove it, the picture below is the same baby (and her twin brother) as shown above. What a difference two years makes!