Coping with Fear of Having a Preemie in the NICU
By: Kelby Carr on: Sun 03 of Jun, 2007 [00:44 UTC] (4083 reads)
If you are pregnant, and particularly if you had a preemie baby stay in the NICU in the past, you are probably terrified of the prospect of it happening again. NICU phobia is normal and anyone who's had a baby in the NICU will probably want to avoid reliving that experience. There are ways to ease your NICU phobia.
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Realize You Might Have Another NICU Baby
This is the terrible truth, but there is no way to guarantee you will avoid the NICU. A major contributor to anxiety is stressing over things you can't control. Easier said than done, of course, but try to focus on the things you can control instead.
You can control your prenatal care. You can push for a doctor's orders of bed rest if you are getting concerned about preterm contractions. You can take it easy, and you can seek more help from others to ease your pregnancy stress.
There will probably never come a point where you make peace with the possibility of revisiting the NICU, but you can make up your mind that you can't change this fact and move on to the following steps to help you cope.
Prepare for the NICU Possibility
What you do have control over is how you prepare for the possibility of another NICU stay, both emotionally and practically. It is extremely challenging having a premature baby in the NICU.
Find skills for coping with stress, whether it's meditation or prenatal yoga. Choose your doctor carefully, and consider getting a specialist in high-risk pregnancies.
Choose your hospital carefully. Be sure it features a Level 3 NICU, preferably one that can handle trauma. Visit the hospital, and request a tour that at least passes the NICU. Most hospitals offer tours to expecting parents. They probably won't allow you inside the NICU, but it never hurts to ask about a personal tour with just you and your spouse.
Ask several hard questions about the NICU, and bring up any bad experiences you had the last time. Ask the staff at the labor and delivery department what their policy is on allowing the mother to visit the baby or babies immediately after delivery (even if the mother is recovering or may have issues herself). Ask NICU nurses about their policies on breastfeeding in the NICU. Use your judgment. Even if you hear the "right" answers, your gut might tell you otherwise.
Have family and friends available to help in case you do need to make several runs to the NICU. If you don't know anyone near you, try to find someone who can come visit after the birth to help. Even if that might cramp your style, you will probably need the help.
The NICU is Easier the Second Time
OK, I should qualify this. Having your baby in the NICU is never, ever easy. That's just the way it is. But in certain ways, your ability to cope with a NICU stay will be easier this time. The first time, you were probably not expecting a NICU stay (even if you knew it was a possibility) and you also didn't know what it was like.
You had no idea about NICU milestones your baby or babies had to achieve, and the doctors and nurses probably used a lot of scary and unfamiliar terms.
This time, you are a veteran. You won't be pushed around as easily by NICU nurses, or as overwhelmed by the experience. You will still be stressed, worried and generally miserable. At least you will understand the process better, and it's hard to underestimate the value of that.