Other conditions

This section describes some other common conditions babies have in the NICU:

• Hypoglycemia
• Hyperglycemia
• Intrauterine growth restriction
• Jaundice
• Macrosomia
• Neonatal abstinence syndrome
• Temperature regulation



hyperglycemia (hye-pur-gly-SEE-mee-uh)
What it is: When a baby has high blood sugar levels after birth.

Treatment: A blood test is done to check the baby’s blood sugar level. If the baby has high blood sugar levels, the provider gives him less glucose than usual through his IV (also called intravenous line, a small tube put in a baby’s vein to give fluids or medicine) and may give him insulin.


hypoglycemia (hye-poh-gly-SEE-mee-uh)
What it is: When a baby has low blood sugar levels after birth.

Treatment: Sick babies and babies born to mothers with diabetes (a condition in which there is too much sugar in the blood) have their blood sugar levels checked to see if they have this condition. Feeding the baby with a sugar solution through an IV (also called intravenous line, a small tube put in a baby’s vein to give fluids or medicine) helps prevent and treat this condition in the NICU.


intrauterine growth restriction (in-truh-YOO-tur-in grohth ri-STRIK-shuhn)
What it is: Also called IUGR. When a baby grows more slowly in the uterus than usual and is smaller than normal at birth.

Treatment: Most of the time, IUGR is diagnosed during pregnancy using an ultrasound test (a test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the inside of the body). A baby with this condition may get a high calorie formula to help her gain weight and may be put in an incubator (a clear plastic bed) or radiant warmer (an open bed with an overhead heating source) to keep her warm.


jaundice (JAWN-diss)
What it is: When a baby’s eyes and skin look yellow. A baby has jaundice when his liver (an organ that helps digest food, store energy, and remove harmful substances from the body) isn’t fully developed or isn’t working. When this happens bilirubin (a yellowish waste that forms when red blood cells break down) builds up in the blood.

Treatment: Blood tests that measure bilirubin are done to check for jaundice. In most cases, jaundice goes away without treatment and doesn’t hurt the baby or cause pain. If a baby has a serious case of jaundice, her provider may suggest phototherapy. This treatment uses special lights called bililights that reduce the amount of bilirubin in a baby’s blood. These bright lights are placed over the baby’s incubator (a clear plastic bed where a baby is put to keep warm); the baby wears eyeshields to keep the light out of his eyes. Sometimes phototherapy is done using a pad or blanket made with special lights that’s placed underneath or wrapped around the baby.

If the jaundice does not get better, then the baby may need an exchange transfusion. This means small amounts of the baby’s blood is taken out and replaced with blood from a donor to reduce the bilirubin.


macrosomia (mak-roh-SOH-mee-uh)
What it is: When a baby is born weighing more than 9 pounds, 14 ounces (4,500 grams). Often babies this large are born to mothers who have diabetes (a condition in which there is too much sugar in the blood).

Treatment: A baby’s provider checks her for low blood sugar (called hypoglycemia). If the baby has hypoglycemia, she’s fed a sugar solution through an IV (also called intravenous line, a small tube put in a baby’s vein to give fluids or medicine) to help increase her blood sugar.


neonatal abstinence syndrome (nee-oh-NAY-tuhl AB-stuh-nentz SIN-drohm)
What it is: Also called NAS. Babies can have this condition if their mother used certain drugs during pregnancy. These drugs include prescription pain medicine like oxycodone and illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin. NAS happens when a baby is exposed to a drug before birth and then goes through drug withdrawal after birth. NAS can last from 1 week to 6 months after birth. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
• Body shakes (tremors) or seizures (a sudden change in the brain’s electrical activity)
• Being fussy, crying much more than usual or having a high-pitched cry
• Having trouble feeding, sucking or gaining weight
• Breathing really fast

Treatment: Treatment for a baby with NAS may include:
• Taking medicine to treat or manage withdrawal symptoms
• Getting fluids through an IV (also called intravenous line, a small tube put in a baby’s vein to give fluids or medicine) to prevent dehydration (a condition that occurs when the baby is losing more fluids than he is taking in)
• Drinking a higher-calorie baby formula to help him grow


temperature regulation problems
What it is: When a baby has trouble staying warm. Babies who are born too small or prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) often don’t have enough body fat to help them stay warm.

Treatment: Babies in the NICU stay in an incubator (a clear plastic bed) or under a radiant warmer (an open bed with an overhead heating source) right after birth to help them stay warm. A tiny thermometer taped to the baby’s belly monitors her temperature and controls the heat. The baby can grow faster if she maintains a normal body temperature, which is most often 98.6 F (37 C).