Having a baby early can be a huge shock and sometimes completely unexpected. We have put together a list of words you might hear when you have a premature baby and what they mean.

Medical terminology can be scary when you don’t know what it means hopefully, this post and the links to more information will help alleviate some of that fear.

Neonatal Units

Depending on when your baby is born or how sick they are after birth will determine what level of care they require.

Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

Babies born after 32 weeks can be looked after in the special care baby unit, where they can monitor the baby’s breathing and/or heart rate, give oxygen, treat low body temperature or low blood sugar. Help baby to feed, sometimes with a tube. Babies who become unwell after birth can also be looked after in the SCBU.

Local Neonatal Unit (LNU).

Babies born between 28 – 32 weeks may be looked after in a local neonatal unit as they may need a higher level of care from medical and nursing staff.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Babies born before 28 weeks or be very ill after birth. Not all hospitals have a NICU so you would be transferred to a hospital that has these facilities.

Transitional Care.

You and your baby stay together while your baby receives the care they need. This could be in the postnatal ward or a room in the neonatal ward.

Other words you might hear when you have a premature baby.

Apgar score

Is a score between 0-10 based on five criteria. Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. Each of the 5 criteria is given a score between 0-2. Each criteria score is added together to give the Apgar score. 7 and above is classed as normal, below 7 is classed as low.


A squeezable bag attached to a mask is placed over the baby’s nose and mouth to help with breathing.

Chest drain

Air or fluid leaking from the lung will be removed by a tube inserted through the chest into the space between the chest and lung.

Corrected age

The age your baby would be if born on their due date.

Extremely low birthweight

Used to describe babies born under 1000g.

Gestational age

The number of weeks pregnant when baby is born. If birth happens at 28 weeks pregnant the gestational age will be 28 weeks.

Head circumference

The measurement around the biggest part of a baby’s head.


A special bed covered in a plastic lid. Heat, humidity and oxygen can be controlled and monitored very closely.

Nasal cannula

A small tube inserted into the nostrils to give the baby oxygen.

Pulse oximeter

A device on the hand or foot of the baby to measure oxygen saturation levels. You will see a red light when the device is working.


Is used when a baby needs help to have normal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. This help is supplied by a machine.

If you hear any terms or words that you don’t know while in the hospital, please ask the medical team who will be happy to explain and answer any questions you have.

Cribbs & Co. Has  an Incubator and SCBU range of clothing specially designed for easy access round monitors and wires.

Further information.

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