Health Information

High-Risk Newborn

  • Adding to Mother's Milk

    Although your milk is best, it is not always complete with the nutritional needs of very small premature babies or some very sick newborns.

  • Apnea of Prematurity

    Apnea is a term that means breathing has stopped for more than 20 seconds. It can happen in full-term babies, but it is more common in premature babies. The more premature the baby, the greater the chances that apnea will occur.

  • Assessments for Newborn Babies
  • Overview of Birth Defects

    A "birth defect" is a health problem or physical change that is present in a baby at the time he/she is born.

  • Birth Defects Index

    Detailed information on birth defects, including their cause and frequency

  • The Benefits of Mother's Own Milk

    Premature babies who receive their own mothers' milk develop better eye function. They, and other high-risk babies fed mothers' milk, usually perform better on different kinds of intelligence tests as they grow older.

  • Birth Injury

    Detailed information on birth injury, including the most common types of birth injury

  • High-Risk Newborn Blood Disorders

    Detailed information on blood disorders that place a newborn at higher risk and require clinical care by a physician or other healthcare professional

  • Blood Types in Pregnancy

    A baby may have the blood type and Rh factor of either parent, or a combination of both parents.

  • Breastfeeding the High-Risk Newborn

    Detailed information on breastfeeding the high-risk newborn

  • Caring for Babies in the NICU

    Detailed information on caring for babies in the NICU

  • Common Conditions and Complications

    Detailed information on common conditions and complications of the high-risk newborn

  • Congenital Heart Disease

    Heart problems are the most common kind of birth defects. While children with some heart defects can be monitored by a doctor and treated with medicine, others will need to have surgery.

  • Chromosomal Abnormalities

    Detailed information on the most common chromosomal abnormalities

  • Cleft Lip and Palate

    Cleft lip and palate are openings or splits in the upper lip or roof of the mouth (palate). A child can be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. Cleft lip and palate may be the only birth defects, or they may happen with other defects.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) in Newborns

    CMV is a herpes virus. It is very common. It affects people of all ages and parts of the U.S. Most of the time, CMV causes mild or no symptoms. But, it can cause serious problems in a fetus or newborn.

  • Disorders of the Brain and Nervous System

    Detailed information on the most common disorders of the brain and nervous system in high-risk newborns

  • Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)

    Detailed information on developmental dysplasia of the hip, including causes, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and cast care

  • Infant of a Mother with Diabetes

    An infant of a mother with diabetes is a baby who is born to a mother with diabetes. Because the mother has diabetes, the baby is at risk for problems.

  • Digestive Disorders in Children

    Detailed information on the most common digestive disorders in high-risk newborns

  • Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21)

    Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that includes a combination of birth defects, including some degree of mental retardation, characteristic facial features and, often, heart defects.

  • Diaphragmatic Hernia

    A diaphragmatic hernia is a birth defect. It happens in a baby during pregnancy. In this condition, there’s an opening in your baby’s diaphragm. This is the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity.

  • Procedures and Equipment in NICU

    NICUs are equipped with complex machines and devices to monitor nearly every system of a baby's body—temperature, heart rate, breathing, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, and blood pressure.

  • Expressing Milk for Your High-Risk Baby

    You will have to remove milk from your breasts on a regular basis if you are to provide enough of your milk for your high-risk baby.

  • Your High-Risk Baby and Expressing Milk

    Most mothers find they get more milk in less time when using a hospital-grade, electric breast pump with a double collection kit when providing milk for high-risk newborns.

  • Blood Circulation in the Fetus and Newborn

    During pregnancy, the fetal lungs are not used for breathing—the placenta does the work of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through the mother's circulation. With the first breaths of air the baby takes at birth, the fetal circulation changes.

  • Group B Streptococcus Infection in Newborns

    Group B streptococcus (strep) is a type of bacteria. It can be found in the digestive tract, urinary tract, and genital area of adults. About 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS in their rectum or vagina. During pregnancy, the mother can pass the infection to the baby. The fetus can get GBS during pregnancy. Newborns can get it from the mother's genital tract during delivery.

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux

    Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a digestive disorder. Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Reflux means to flow back or return.

  • Heart Disorders

    Detailed information on heart disorders in high-risk newborns

  • Hydrocephalus

    A baby with hydrocephalus has extra fluid around his or her brain. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid. It lives in fluid-filled areas (ventricles) of your child’s brain and spreads to the spinal cord.

  • Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn (HDN)

    Hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN) is a blood problem in newborns. It occurs when your baby's red blood cells break down at a fast rate.  It’s also called erythroblastosis fetalis. 

  • HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

    A mother with HIV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding.

  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) in Premature Babies

    Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a common problem in premature babies. It causes babies to need extra oxygen and help with breathing.

  • Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding in the Newborn

    Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a problem that occurs in some newborns. It happens during the first few days of life. This condition used to be called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.

  • Hypospadias

    Hypospadias is a disorder in newborn boys in which the opening of the urethra is not located at the tip of the penis.

  • Hydrops Fetalis

    Hydrops fetalis is severe swelling (edema) in the fetus or a newborn baby. It is a life-threatening problem. There are 2 types: immune and nonimmune.

  • Hyperbilirubinemia in the Newborn

    Hyperbilirubinemia happens when there is too much bilirubin in your baby’s blood. Bilirubin is made by the breakdown of red blood cells. It’s hard for babies to get rid of bilirubin. It can build up in their blood, tissues, and fluids.

  • Hypocalcemia in the Newborn

    Hypocalcemia is when a person doesn't have enough calcium in the blood. In babies, it’s called neonatal hypocalcemia. Your baby can get it at different times and from different causes.

  • Intravenous Line and Tubes

    Because most babies in the NICU are too small or sick to take milk feedings, medications and fluids are often given through their veins or arteries.

  • Home Page - High-Risk Newborn

    Detailed information on high-risk newborns

  • Infection in Babies

    Newborns are particularly susceptible to infections. One of the best ways to keep your baby infection-free is to wash your hands before and after handling him or her. Other preventive measures may also be necessary.

  • Intraventricular Hemorrhage

    If your baby is born prematurely, there are many worries that likely go through your mind. One of the things that can happen is bleeding on the brain. Read on to learn about this and what doctors can do help your baby.

  • Low Birth Weight

    Low birth weight is a term used to describe babies who are born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams). An average newborn usually weighs about 8 pounds. A low-birth-weight baby may be healthy even though he or she is small. But a low-birth-weight baby can also have many serious health problems.

  • Large for Gestational Age

    Large for gestational age is used to describe newborn babies who weigh more than the usual amount for the number of weeks of pregnancy. Babies are called large for gestational age if they weigh more than 9 in 10 babies of the same gestational age.

  • Meconium Aspiration

    Meconium aspiration happens when a newborn breathes in a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds the baby in the womb. Meconium is the baby's first stool, or poop, which is sticky, thick, and dark green. It is typically passed in the womb during early pregnancy and again in the first few days after birth.

  • Breast Milk: Pumping, Collecting, Storing

    "Fresh breast milk" contains the most active anti-infective properties. Refrigerated breast milk has fewer anti-infective properties than fresh milk and frozen breast milk has the least.

  • Breastfeeding Your High-Risk Baby

    Learning to breastfeed effectively is a process that may take days or weeks for premature and many other high-risk babies. But you and your baby can become a breastfeeding team if you are patient and persistent.

  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

    Neonatal abstinence syndrome is what happens when babies are exposed to drugs in the womb before birth. Babies can then go through drug withdrawal after birth. 

  • Necrotizing Enterocolitis in the Newborn

    Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious illness in newborns. It happens when tissue in the large intestine (colon) gets inflamed. This inflammation damages and sometimes kills the tissue in your baby’s colon.

  • The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

    NICUs provide specialized care for the tiniest patients. NICUs may also have intermediate or continuing care areas for babies who are not as sick but do need specialized nursing care.

  • Milk Production and Your High-Risk Baby

    A delay in the time when milk "comes in" sometimes occurs after the birth of a high-risk baby. Also, it is not unusual to experience a drop in the amount being pumped after several weeks.

  • Nutrition and Fluids

    When your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit, your main concern is getting her healthy and home. Taking food by the mouth and gaining weight are two important steps toward that goal. Find out what happens to help your baby get there, including the role you play.

  • Online Resources - High-Risk Newborn

    List of online resources to find additional information on high-risk newborns

  • Physical Abnormalities

    Detailed information on physical abnormalities of high-risk newborns

  • Pneumothorax

    Pneumothorax is a lung disorder in which air in the lungs leaks out through holes in the lung tissue into the spaces outside the lung airways.

  • Polycythemia Vera in Children

    Polycythemia vera is a serious, but very rare blood disorder in children. With polycythemia vera, the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. The extra cells make the blood too thick. This may lead to blood clots. The clots can decrease the blood supply to organs, tissues, and cells.

  • Postmaturity in the Newborn

    The normal length of pregnancy is 37 to 41 weeks. Postmaturity is a word used to describe babies born after 42 weeks. Very few babies are born at 42 weeks or later. Other terms often used to describe these late births include post-term, postmaturity, prolonged pregnancy, and post-dates pregnancy.

  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in the Newborn

    Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) happens in newborn babies. It occurs when a newborn’s circulation changes back to the circulation of a fetus. When this happens, too much blood flow bypasses the baby’s lungs. This is sometimes called persistent fetal circulation.

  • Prematurity

    A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered premature or born too early. The number of premature births in the U.S. is rising. Twins and other multiples are more likely to be premature than single birth babies.

  • Parenting in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

    In most cases, you can be with your baby in the NICU at any time. The staff of the NICU will give you instructions on special handwashing techniques before entering the area.

  • Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)

    The head is one of the most fragile parts on your baby, especially after birth. Sometimes, damage can occur, particularly if your baby is born prematurely. One type of brain damage is called periventricular leukomalacia. Read on to better understand what this diagnosis means for you and your baby, and what doctors can do to help.

  • Pyloric Stenosis

    Pyloric stenosis is a problem that causes forceful vomiting. It affects babies from birth to 6 months of age. It can lead to dehydration. This condition is the second most common reason why newborns have surgery.

  • Taking Your Baby Home

    Your baby is finally ready to come home. Turn your nervous energy into positive action. Make a checklist for what you and she needs before leaving the hospital so that you can create a safe home environment. Here’s a list of items to get you started.

  • Respiratory Disorders in the Newborn

    Detailed information on respiratory disorders in high-risk newborns

  • Retinopathy of Prematurity

    Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye problem that happens to premature babies. The retina lines the back of the eye. It receives light as it comes through the pupil. From there, the optic nerve sends signals to the brain. Retinopathy of prematurity is a problem of the blood vessels of the retina.

  • The Respiratory System in Babies

    By about 35 weeks gestation, most babies have developed adequate amounts of surfactant, a substance normally released into the lung tissues to lower surface tension in the airways. This helps keep the air sacs in the lung open.

  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

    RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis—inflammation of the lower airways—and pneumonia in babies.

  • Sepsis

    Sepsis is a serious medical condition that can result in organ damage or death. It happens when the body’s immune system has a severe response to an infection. Sepsis is a medical emergency.

  • Small for Gestational Age

    Small for gestational age is a term used to describe babies that are smaller than usual for the number of weeks of pregnancy. These babies have birth weight below the 10th percentile. This means they are smaller than many other babies of the same gestational age.

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

    Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS is sometimes called crib death because the death happens when a baby is sleeping in a crib. It’s one of the leading causes of death in babies from ages 1 month to 1 year. It happens most often between 2 and 4 months old.

  • Topic Index - High-Risk Newborn

    Detailed information on high-risk newborns

  • Special Care

    Premature babies especially need a supportive environment to help them continue to mature and develop as they would in their mother's womb.

  • Spina Bifida

    Spina bifida can occur in the early weeks of pregnancy, before you even know you are expecting. That’s why your baby is depending on you to have healthy habits in place from the start. Learn more about the prevention and treatment of this birth defect.

  • Substance Exposure

    Detailed information on substance exposure of newborns

  • Testing and Lab Procedures for the Newborn in Intensive Care

    It’s important that babies in intensive care undergo regular testing so they get the important care they need. Here are common seven lab tests used in the newborn intensive care unit. Make sure to ask your baby’s doctor about them.

  • Thrombocytopenia in the Newborn

    Thrombocytopenia [thrombo-boh-sy-toh-PEE-nee-uh] means that a newborn baby has too few platelets in his or her blood. Platelets are blood cells that help the blood clot. They are made in the bone marrow.

  • Trisomy 18 and 13

    Trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 are genetic disorders that present a combination of birth defects including severe mental retardation, as well as health problems involving nearly every organ system in the body.

  • Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn

    Transient tachypnea [TACK-up-NEE-uh] of the newborn is a mild breathing problem. It affects babies during the first hours of life. Transient means it is short-lived. Tachypnea means fast breathing rate. The problem usually goes away without treatment in about 3 days.

  • Turner Syndrome

    Turner syndrome is a genetic disorder seen in girls that causes them to be shorter than others and to not mature sexually as they grow into adulthood.

  • Hernia (Umbilical/Inguinal)

    A hernia occurs when a section of intestine protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles. In babies, this usually occurs around the navel or in the groin area.

  • Vision and Hearing

    Detailed information on vision and hearing in newborns

  • Very Low Birth Weight

    Very low birth weight is a term used to describe babies who are born weighing less than 3 pounds, 4 ounces. It is very rare that babies are born this tiny. But the overall rate of very-low-birth-weight babies in the U.S. is going up. This is because more multiple birth babies are being born. Multiples are more likely to be born early and weigh less.

  • Warmth and Temperature Regulation

    Premature and low birthweight babies may be too immature to regulate their own temperature, even in a warm environment. Even full-term and healthy newborns may not be able to maintain their body temperature if the environment is too cold.

  • Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby

    Breastfeeding your premature infant is not only possible, it's the best thing for your baby.

  • Omphalocele

    An omphalocele is a birth defect. It happens when your baby is forming during pregnancy. In this condition, some of your baby’s abdominal organs poke out (protrude) through an opening in the abdominal muscles. This area is in the umbilical cord. A clear (translucent) membrane covers the organs.

  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

    Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a heart defect found in the days or weeks after birth. The ductus arteriosus is a normal part of fetal blood circulation. All babies are born with this opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. But it usually closes on its own shortly after birth. If it stays open, it is called patent ductus arteriosus.

  • Chronic Lung Disease in Premature Babies

    Chronic lung disease is the general term for long-term breathing problems in premature babies. It’s also called bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

    A baby born to a mother who drinks alcohol during pregnancy can have many problems. This is called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

  • Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby

    Hypoglycemia is when the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood is too low. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain and the body. In a newborn baby, low blood sugar can happen for many reasons. It can cause problems such as shakiness, blue tint to the skin, and breathing and feeding problems.

  • Overview of Blood and Blood Components

    Human blood consists of about 22% solids and 78% water. The components of blood are plasma, fat globules, chemicals, and gases.