Every mother-to-be hopes for a smooth delivery when it’s time for her baby to be born.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
“The delivery is an important and usually pleasant time,” says neonatologist Firas Saker, MD. “But even with a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery can take an unexpected course.”
Being able to plan the childbirth experience you want in a facility with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can give you the peace of mind of having high-level medical support ready to go in case complications arise.
One common example of an unpredictable complication of childbirth is umbilical cord compression, which can endanger the health and life of a baby. Compression occurs when the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the baby’s neck, knotted, or pinched between the baby and the birth canal, cutting off the supply of blood and oxygen to the baby.
Other babies may have abnormal presentation, which means that a body part other than the baby’s head will come out first. Premature rupture of membranes, when your water breaks early, also puts a baby at risk for health complications.
Safety net advantages
“If a woman wants a delivery with little medical intervention, she can have that at a hospital with a NICU as well as anyplace else,” says OB/GYN and Head, Cleveland Clinic Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Jeff Chapa, MD. “The NICU provides added security since we can’t always predict which deliveries will be complicated.”
“When choosing a hospital, you want to make sure the services are available for a happy outcome,” says Dr. Saker.
Another advantage of choosing a hospital with a NICU is that you and your baby won’t be in different hospitals if a NICU is needed.
“It is important not to separate mom and baby,” says Dr. Saker. “At a hospital with a NICU, we can provide medical support to the baby while mom and dad stay close.”
Ready for anything
When choosing where to deliver your baby, talk to your healthcare provider about balancing the medical needs of you and your baby with the type of delivery you want. It’s important to build a relationship with your midwife or physician, so you feel confident they are making choices with your preferences in mind.
“All providers want to respect the patient’s wishes,” Dr. Chapa says, “but we don’t want to take chances. Build that relationship with your provider so you trust that if complications arise, we will do what’s necessary to keep you and your baby safe.”