NICU/SCN Equipment

Cardio respiratory Monitor
This measures a babies breathing and heart rate. 3 self adhesive disks with leads attached are placed on baby’s chest to read babies respiratory and heart rate. These readings can be viewed on a screen or monitor and if either measurement read above or below an acceptable limit, an alarm sounds to alert medical staff.

CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
A continuous amount of air, sometimes with added oxygen, is delivered through tubes in the baby’s nose to keep the airways of the lungs open as baby breathes.

This is a special bed where your baby may be kept. Premature babies lack the ability to maintain their body temperature so keeping them in this special enclosed bed keeps them warm until they gain some fat and the ability to hold their own body temperature.

Intravenous Fluid, Lines and Pump
Your baby may require intravenous medication, fluid or feeding. In this case lines are inserted into a vein or artery in baby’s leg, arm, scalp or what remains of the umbilical cord. A special pump regulates the amount of medication or fluid your baby receives.

Phototherapy Lights
Special lights are used to help break down biliruben. Baby will usually be naked, except for a nappy, to maximize the amount of skin exposed to the light. They will also wear a special mask to protect their eyes.

Pulse Oximetre
A probe is taped, usually to baby’s foot, which measures the amount of oxygen in his/her blood. This probe is regularly moved from foot to foot to prevent false readings and ensure no damage is done to the skin.

This is a machine that helps your baby breathe. Oxygen is supplied through a tube, in baby’s nose or mouth that leads into the windpipe.


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The material provided here is for informational purposes only and should not replace, or be used as a substitute for, professional medical advice


Risk Factors & Causes Of Premature Birth

Approximately 40,000 babies are admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) or Special Care Nurseries (SCN) each year for a variety of reasons. Approximately 23,000 of these babies are born prematurely. Around 6,000 babies require critical and intensive life support each year (Laws, Grayson & Sullivan 2006).

What is premature birth?
A normal pregnancy lasts for approximately 40 weeks. Premature or preterm birth is defined medically as a baby being born earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Risk Factors for Premature Birth
Many causes of pre-term birth are unexplained and unknown, however there are many risk factors that increase the chances of babies being born early. There are many different factors, medical and otherwise that may make some women more high risk:

With an increasing number of women using Invitro Fertilisation (IVF) to become pregnant, and an increase in maternal age, physicians are delivering more sets of twins and triplets or higher order multiples. Approximately half of all twin pregnancies end in pre-term delivery and almost all higher order multiples are born prematurely. Multiple pregnancy can also result in TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome).

Previous premature birth

Women who have had a premature delivery previously have an increased risk of having another pre-term delivery.

Short period between pregnancies
A period of less than six to nine months between the birth of one baby and the start of the next pregnancy increases the risk of premature delivery.

Preeclampsia is the development of elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy. It may be associated with swelling of the face and hands. Symptoms can include edema (swelling of face and hands), high blood pressure, vision disturbances, headaches, nausea and vomiting. This condition can lead to serious complications for the mother and fetus including premature birth. The only known cure is delivery of the baby.

HELLP Syndrome
Hemolysis, Elevaled Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count This is a serious complication related to high blood-pressure during pregnancy. Red blood cells start to break down causing anemia, liver cells are damaged and this effects liver function, low platelet count which affects the ability of blood to clot. Symptoms may include a general unwell feeling and/or feeling weak, increased blood pressure, protein in urine, abdominal pain, swelling, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

There are many well-known risks associated with smoking during pregnancy, including low birth weight babies and premature deliveries.

Uterine or cervical abnormalities
This includes stretching or abnormally shaped uterus or cervix, as well as fibroids or even having too much or too little amniotic fluid. Women with an incompetent cervix may require a procedure known as a cerclage. Performed at about 12 weeks gestation, this procedure involves placing a stitch in the cervix to prevent it from opening up too soon. The stitch is then removed when the baby is closer to full term.

Recurring infections
Infections affecting the vagina, kidneys, bladder and urinary tract can all lead to pre-term birth. Also, any infection with a high fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius during pregnancy can lead to an early birth.

Chronic illnesses
High blood pressure, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), kidney disease or lupus.

History of second-trimester abortion or more than two first-trimester abortions. The cervix may be damaged during these procedures.

Mother’s age
Younger than 18 or older than 40 years.

Clotting disorder (thrombophilia)

Alcohol and drug abuse

May play a role in the risk of premature birth.

PPROM “Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes”
This is where the amniotic sac ruptures/breaks before the onset of labour. Many causes of PPROM are infections but some of the causes remain unknown or unclear.

Placental risks & causes – Placenta Previa and Placental Abruption
Placenta Previa is where the placenta is obstructing the cervix. The placenta may be completely covering the cervix, partially covering the cervix or sitting close to the edge of the cervix. Placenta Previa can cause bleeding, and an increased risk of slow fetal growth, preterm birth and birth defects. There is no treatment for Placenta Previa, however steps can be taken to reduce the health risks to mother a baby. This can include bed rest, steroid injections to strengthen babies lungs in readiness for pre-term birth, and caesarian delivery. Placental Abruption is defined as the premature separation of the placenta from the uterus. This can cause minor bleeding or serious hemorrhage, depending on the degree and location of the separation. Direct trauma to the uterus is one known cause and other risk factors may be smoking, high blood pressure and multiple pregnancy. Symptoms can include vaginal bleeding, feeling faint, nausea and abdominal pain.

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The material provided here is for informational purposes only and should not replace, or be used as a substitute for, professional medical advice


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Toivonen Family

Soon after moving from Sydney to Melbourne Julia fell pregnant with their first child. Ronan arrived 13 weeks early weighing 1140 grams, or around the size of a large tub of butter. He spent over 100 days in hospital and had many premmie complications. Ronan’s biggest hurdle was Chronic Lung Disease which saw him on oxygen for three months.

With all of Julia’s family living in Sydney, she felt a strong desire for them to be part of Ronan’s premmie journey. Julia created a website dedicated to her son, and updated his progress daily. The news and photographs were a great comfort to her family, and an outlet for Julia during this stressful time.

Through her experience of prematurity and website work, Julia created an online support site,
L’il Aussie Prems
( in March 2007 in the hope to support parents and families with premature babies. The sites forum has a membership of over 850 members Australia wide. L’il Aussie Prems is the brainchild behind Australia’s first award recognising the enormous effort volunteers give to families with the “Local Premmie Hero” awards.

Julia won an award through her local council for “Local Hero of the Year 2008”. Julia joined the Lifes Little Treasures committee in July 2007 and has become an integral part of their team as well as an integral part of the National Premmie Foundations committee since it’s inception in 2007. She has created L’il Aussie Prems, Lifes Little Treasures, PIPA and the Premmie Foundations websites. Julia resides in the Knox area.

Julia represents Life’s Little Treasures in Victoria

National Premmie Foundation Group Members:
Loddon Mallee Kids
Lifes Little Treasures
Central Coast Prems


The Preterm Infants’ Parents’ Association


Preterm Infants’ Parents’ Association Inc.

PIPA operates in QLD, Northern NSW, SA & NT

Each year approximately 8.5% of babies born in Australia are born premature (less than 37 weeks gestation). Over 5,000 of these are born in Queensland and approximately 1,700 in South Australia. The Preterm Infants Parents Association Inc. (PIPA) is a charity which offers practical and emotional support to the families of these infants born premature. Our goal is to raise awareness of premature birth and to provide understanding, information, encouragement, friendship and assistance to parents of preterm infants.

PIPA was formed in Brisbane in 1980 to try to offer whatever help is needed to families of premature babies. It is now the only Statewide association still operating in Australia. It is also a founding member of the National Premmie Foundation Inc. This allows PIPA to network with other preterm infant parent support groups around Australia.

The self-help nature of PIPA is its strength and the characteristic that makes it different from other support mechanisms found in and around intensive care units. PIPA has contact with parents during their babies stay in hospital and this contact continues after their baby is discharged from the nurseries.

PIPA offers a variety of support services which include hospital visiting, support meetings, library, newsletter, preterm infant fact sheets, website, help and information telephone line, prem parents get togethers, community education and other direct assistance as required.


President: Rachael Anderson 0437 677 323
Parent Support: Eileen Cooke 07 3314 0115

South Australia Branch
Coordinator: Shari Chambers 08 8524 3601

Parent Help and Information Line: 1300 PremParent  (1300 773 672)

Postal Address:

PIPA Secretary
PO Box 400
RBH Qld 4029

Patron: Prof. David Tudehope

Join their Facebook page


L’il Aussie Prems


L’il Aussie Prems Foundation Inc. ceased all operations in 2018.