About Neonatal Intensive Care

The public remains largely unaware of the prevalence of neonatal intensive care, or the specialized facilities it requires. With the continuing advancement of fertility science and the technology to save premature and at-risk infants, this information becomes especially crucial. A brief review reveals the critical role newborn intensive care plays in children’s health for thousands of families throughout the United States and abroad.

(these statistics were current when the film was released in 2000 and remain generally current; the most recent info can be found at The National Center for Health Statistics)


*LOW BIRTH WEIGHT (under 5 pounds, or 2500 grams) More than a quarter million babies are born annually in the United States with low birth weight, (about 7.5%) a major contributor to infant mortality and morbidity. Currently, 80-90% of infants weighing under 2 pounds survive, but low birth weight infants are 2-3 times more likely to experience long-term disabilities, and account for 10% of all health care costs for children.


*PRETERM DELIVERY About one out of every nine babies is born preterm, often for unknown causes. 17% of black babies are born preterm, while the overall rate is 11.4% (as of 1996). Preterm delivery is associated with over 5 billion dollars in annual health care costs.


*MULTIPLE BIRTHS Since 1980, the number of twins has increased by 52%, and the number of higher multiples by 404%. Twins have a higher incidence of cerebral palsy than singletons, and in general, multiples have a higher incidence of low birth weight, infant mortality, and maternal complications.


*INFANT MORTALITY America’s infant mortality rate, considered an indicator of overall health conditions, lags behind 23 other industrialized nations. Mortality rates are higher among infants that are preterm, low birth weight, black (4x higher), male (21x higher), or from a multiple pregnancy (5x higher).


* CONTRIBUTING FACTORS When assessing low birth weight and preterm delivery, epidemiologists have identified poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate access to prenatal care, minority status, substance abuse, AIDS, and teen pregnancy as risk factors contributing to these hallmark of neonatal morbidity. As a result, many infants from urban, underprivileged, and minority backgrounds require newborn intensive care, producing approximately thirty percent of all Medicaid expenditures for maternity care.