Before your baby is born

If you have been told that your baby is likely to need to spend some time in neonatal care, find out more about what you can do to prepare.

Knowing that your baby is more likely to need to spend some time in neonatal care can feel frightening. Your baby may need neonatal care if they are born premature (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), have a low birth weight, or have a medical condition which will need treatment.

This page has some more information about ways to prepare yourself before your baby is born, and will help you find more information and support.

Preparing yourself

We have listed below some things you may want to do to prepare yourself. Some of these tips have been suggested to us by parents who have had a baby in neonatal care. These are just ideas and you should only do what you feel comfortable with.

Visit the neonatal unit

You may be offered a tour of the neonatal unit in advance. This will help you to understand what to expect when you arrive on the unit and will help you to find your way around.

This is a good opportunity to find out how you are going to travel to and from the neonatal unit.

You should also be introduced to some of the staff on the neonatal unit and what they do, the facilities and equipment. You may want to ask about any parent support groups available.

Some units will offer a virtual tour of their neonatal unit if you are unable to visit in person beforehand, or some written information about the unit.

Our information about neonatal care is also a great place to start for general information about the different levels of neonatal care, tests, equipment, and support available.

You may want to read our page about looking after your baby on the neonatal unit, which has more information about why being involved in your baby’s care is important and ways that you can be involved when your baby is born.

Ask questions

It is always important to ask questions if you have any, and write things down so you don’t forget them. It is always okay to ask again if you do not understand any part of your baby’s treatment or care.

You could make a list of what you would like to ask before pregnancy and scan appointments.

Find out more information

If your baby has been diagnosed with a genetic or congenital condition that means they are likely to need neonatal care, you may want to do some research about the condition.

It may also be helpful to do this if you or your partner have been diagnosed with a condition that means that you or they are more likely to have a baby born premature or sick.

If doctors think that there is a risk that your baby will be born premature, doctors may give treatment  which aims to prevent premature birth. 

Tommy’s have some more information about these treatments. Speak to your consultant if you are unsure what they mean or if you want some more information.  

It is important that you get information from reliable sources. We have signposted to websites below that produce high-quality, reliable, and up-to-date information.

You can also email us at hello@bliss.org.uk for more guidance.

Talk to other parents

Some parents may find it useful to talk to other parents who have had a baby in neonatal care.

Our Facebook page is a great way to interact with other parents, and there is also the Bliss Netmums message board, where you can connect with other parents who have been through similar experiences.

You might want to look at some of the stories on our website to read the experiences of other parents. We also spoke to some parents about what advice they would share for people who know their baby will need care in NICU, or for people currently going through the NICU experience. You can read that advice on this page.

Pack a hospital bag

You may want to think about packing a hospital bag for you and your baby. Many neonatal units will have their own clothes and blankets, but you will be able to bring your own too.

Most units will ask parents to bring in items such as nappies and cotton wool. This is different between units, so do ask the staff on the unit first what would be good to bring.

How you might be feeling

If you know that your baby is more likely to spend some time in neonatal care, the unknown and uncertain can feel difficult.

Some parents describe the feelings they experience as like being an emotional rollercoaster, feeling excitement and joy one minute and worry the next.

This is normal, and there is no right or wrong way to feel. If you have questions or are looking for support, either before or after your baby is born, you can email us on hello@bliss.org.uk

Many neonatal units have emotional support services for parents who have a baby in neonatal care.

If you decide to have a tour around the neonatal unit, this may be a good time to ask the staff on the unit about the emotional support available, such as counselling or support groups.

You may want to ask staff on the unit if there is a Bliss Champion available. Bliss Champions are trained volunteers who offer emotional support and practical information to parents who have a baby on a neonatal unit.

Many of our Bliss Champions are currently not on neonatal units because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can find out more information about which units usually have Bliss Champions available.

You can also book an online appointment with one of our Bliss Champions after your baby is born.

You can arrange an appointment with a Bliss Champion and find out more information about our support

Even if you think you might not need it, it is always good to know what support is available.

Useful organisations

Action on pre-eclampsia supports families affected by pre-eclampsia.

Antenatal Results and Choices has information and support for parents about antenatal screening and its consequences. They have a helpline that you can call on 020 7713 7486 or you can email info@arc.uk.org

CDH UK provides information, emotional and practical support to families with a baby with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH).

Diabetes UK have some useful information about diabetes and pregnancy, and also has a group specifically for questions and discussions on this topic.

Mind has lots of information about perinatal mental health, including information for partners.

NHS.UK has lots of information about different medical conditions.

Rainbow Trust provides emotional and practical support to families who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. They have specific neonatal support workers who can support families on neonatal units.

Together for Short Lives has emotional support and information for families caring for a seriously ill child.

Tommy’s provide information and support for pregnant people and their families, including information about complications during pregnancy.

Twins Trust provides information and support to families of multiple births. You can call their Twinline on 0800 138 0509 or email asktwinline@twinstrust.org

Last revised - March 2021

Next review due - March 2024